By Katy Savage
The Woodstock Economic Development Commission wants to make Christmas a month-long event in Woodstock.
The commissioners discussed making Woodstock a go-to “Christmas town” in 2022 at their meeting on Oct. 7, with the Wassail Parade at the center.
The existing weekend-long Wassail event draws thousands of visitors. The Wassail Parade, a Currier & Ives-themed horse parade with people and horses decorated in Victorian attire, has been a Woodstock tradition for nearly 40 years.
This year’s event is scheduled Dec. 10-12. Aside from the parade, the Whiffenpoofs, Yale University’s a cappella group, is performing Dec. 11 at 7:30 p.m. There is also candle dipping, holiday stories, cooking demonstrations, caroling and horse-drawn carriage rides scheduled this year.
In 2022, the commissioners want to devote an extra $8,600 to the event to add fire pits throughout the village over three weekends in December, with stumps to sit on and bags of s’mores to purchase. They would hire people to monitor the fire pits and bring wood to burn on weekend afternoons.
A handful of people would also be hired to dress in Currier & Ives-themed attire and walk the streets handing out candy canes to visitors. There would be carriage rides every weekend.
“Basically what we’re trying to do is create the [Christmas] vibe,” EDC member Deborah Green said.
Green and commissioner Michael Malik, who are part of the newly-formed events committee, consulted with the Woodstock Inn and Woodstock Chamber of Commerce about expanding events in Woodstock.
While the commissioners proposed a month of Christmas, Woodstock Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Beth Finlayson suggested starting with only a week. Finlayson also suggested incorporating the merchants into plans.
“We’re not just promoting Woodstock on the weekend, but we’re promoting shopping at stores during the week,” she said.
All of the commissioners spoke favorably of the idea. However, chair Jon Spector said he was concerned about liability for the fire pits.
“We’re not prepared to stop fires in the village on three weekends,” he said.
The commissioners decided to wait to vote on the proposal until more information could be gathered. A special meeting is scheduled for Oct. 13.
Wassail is currently funded by a group of partners, including the Woodstock Chamber, Pentangle Arts and Billings Farm & Museum. The Woodstock Chamber coordinates the event and currently spends about $4,000 on it every year.
This year, the Woodstock Chamber is asking the EDC for $3,000 to purchase Christmas lights in the village, which Chippers, Inc. voluntarily strings every year. Finlayson also asked the EDC for $2,000 to hire shuttle busses over Wassail weekend.
Wassail is part of the event committee’s vision to bring more people to Woodstock.
Malik said the events committee wants to “bolster existing events and new events that are brought to us.”
He mentioned the Covered Bridges Half Marathon, Bookstock and the Woodstock Arts Festival as successful events that could be expanded.
“They’re great events but they could be greater,” he said.