Sunset doesn’t get much earlier around this town than it did with Saturday’s 4:13 p.m.
But as the English Methodist minister William Watkinson said, “Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
Even a battery-operated candle. And decorative lights on trees, shrubs, building facades, and baby strollers. And blinking safety bulbs, and spotlights on the Town Common, and the reflection of the bright smiles of children of all ages.
The holiday season walkabout and tree-lighting turned Bedford Center into a glow-in-the-dark sanctuary for a three-hour window, beginning late Saturday afternoon. Even the moon decided to show up after clouds and showers most of the day.
“When I came down here to help set up at 2 o’clock, it was pouring,” said Jeff King, the town’s economic development director while he scoped the throngs gathering for the tree-lighting.
But by 3:30 p.m., the official opening time for the event, whatever misty precipitation remained was no deterrent to the celebration. The sidewalks were animated by 4 p.m.
The tree lighting was climactic. Recreation Director Josh Smith introduced Sarah Dorer, Bedford’s 2022 Citizen-of-the-Year. Standing on the First Parish Church steps beside an LED digital clock running in reverse, Dorer took the microphone and, as the church bell sounded at 5 p.m., counted down from 10 seconds to one.
Strings of bright white lights interwoven through the branches of three prominent oak trees suddenly illuminated the scene.
Five minutes later, Santa Claus arrived via Engine 4 of the Bedford Fire Department, flanked by Lt. Scott Ricker at the wheel and Firefighter Sam Panzeri alongside.
Santa exited the apparatus and acted like he had been here before, striding without entourage to a spotlighted enclosure on the Common, equipped with a bench large enough for a jolly old elf in the middle and a kid on each side. Within minutes, there were scores of people in line.
The activity on the perimeter of the Common area leading up to the tree lighting was popular as well.
Over at the northwest corner of The Great and Springs roads, it was snowing hard. Well, not meteorologically, but the artificial stuff emanating from the portico rooftop of the Suzanne & Co. realty office was effective nonetheless.
The front lawn of the house was licensed as a beer and wine garden for the afternoon, and the revelry was enhanced by a life-sized Frosty the Snowman meandering around, as well as a trio of musicians from Regency Brass on the porch (equipped with a “scan-and-pay” QR code to facilitate donations).
Across The Great Road, on the other side of the fire station, another real estate brokerage was teeming as well. The big attraction at Barrett-Sotheby’s was a photo op with Santa Claus, and the young families were lined up to the door, bisecting platters of cupcakes and a table set up for kids to write letters to Santa.
Longtime agent Barbara Aldorisio, 84, resplendently dressed as a lime-green elf, was impressed by the turnout. “All these new people,” she marveled.
Next door, firefighters staffed a hot-chocolate-and-candy-cane concession on the apron in front of the fire station. Nearby was a two-story flimsy plastic elf, in constant motion thanks to a generator-induced breeze.
The Rotary Club of Bedford staked out the green space in front of the firehouse at the corner of Elm Street and gave away 250 blinking lights, designed to enhance safety for cyclists and walkers in the darkness of early morning or after sunset. The table was probably visible from space as the Rotarians lined up the flashing giveaways on tables, but they didn’t last long.
A little to the east on The Great Road, paralegals and other staff members from the law firm Brown & Brown greeted visitors and ladled hot cider at their office – the historic Domine Manse. Atty. Pam Brown, president and partner, worked with volunteers to assemble “holiday swag” from festive fabric and freshly-cut greens.
Around the corner, in the ground floor of the Old Town Hall on South Road, the Bedford Historical Society opened its suite to the public. Sandra Duffy, office and archives administrator, as well as President Tom Kinzer and Vice President Paul Purchia, were on hand early.
Maybe in a year the Historical Society will host its open house in museum space, now in the planning stage for the third floor. On Saturday, the office and archival storage rooms were welcoming, modestly decorated for the holiday and featuring an array of prospective gifts, including new t-shirts and lanyards.
“Take a recipe,” Duffy suggested, pointing visitors to a table with reprints of an 18th century plan for cookies. The ingredients: sugar, cocoa, an egg white, and “a pinch of cream of tartar.”