As Angelo Colao, Bedford’s Citizen-of-the-Year, eyed the countdown on the digital clock on the exterior wall of First Parish Church, his predecessor, Sarah Dorer, approached and with a smile offered a symbolic handoff of the honor announcing the seasonal illumination of trees on the Town Common. She noted that Lois and Brown Pulliam provided her with a similar blessing a year ago.
After his introduction by Recreation Director Josh Smith, Colao, a former selectman and Planning Board member, thanked town departments and employees before calling off the final 10 seconds.
The strings of lights adorning the trees on the Common illuminated on cue, to gasps and cheers.
The moment was a highlight – by no means the only one – of several hours of old-school community celebrating by residents and visitors of all ages. Throngs exalted in mild temperatures as they joined the “walkabout” of local businesses and institutions.
A few minutes after the lighting on the Common, Lt. Nick Anderson maneuvered Bedford Fire Department Engine 3, with a brief siren blast, onto Elm Street from The Great Road and pulled up where the fence breaks for a pathway.
Santa Claus hopped out of the passenger’s seat and waved to the throng awaiting his arrival, extending both arms like someone had scored a touchdown.
As Santa Claus strode to the chair where he would greet children and other well-wishers, he proclaimed, “Here we go again.”
Earlier, Santa sat in the seat of honor at the Barrett Sotheby’s realty office, posing for photos with individual children. The kids wrote their holiday wish lists and inserted them in a special mailbox, then waited for 85-year-old realtor Barbara Aldorisio, an elf wearing a resplendent green outfit, gave the go-ahead to proceed to see the special guest.
Next door, Bedford first-responders staffed adjacent tables on the fire station apron. Despite the mild afternoon, the firefighters exhausted their marshmallow supply as hot chocolate flowed. Meanwhile, police officers tried to talk a five-year-old volunteer into waiting a few more years before joining the force.
Over at the historic house at Great and Springs roads, home of Suzanne Koller’s real estate office, the licensed beer garden on the front lawn was popular, not only because of the beverages, but also the accumulating artificial snow drifting from a machine on the porch roof.
At the First Parish Church, some 30 artisans occupied two floors of the church building with wares ranging from small art pieces and jewelry to woodworking, textiles, and children’s books. Clients greeted local artists such as Sarah Scoville and Jim Petipas as well as Natalia Proskura of the Ukrainian Cultural Initiative and Lincoln-based South Sudanese Enrichment for Families.
Barbara Purchia, chair of the Cultural Council, said other organizers of the array of vendors included Sylvia Malloy of the Bedford Arts and Crafts Society, Doris Smith, Julie Turner, and Chris Wojnar.
Jeff King, the town’s housing and economic development director, checked out the crowd at the afternoon landmark. King said he began planning the festivities last summer, along with other town departments and the Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce. The execution, he said, “has been seamless.”
“We keep adding things,” King said, including the Storybook Trail, featuring 14 stops on and around the Common, and musicians at the entrance to the artisans’ fair.
“We did a lot more marketing this year,” he added, and extended the promotion to places and events outside the center of town. “We’re not competing with each other,” he explained.
Adam Schwartz, a meteorologist who chairs the Chamber Board, chimed in to claim that he was responsible for the mild weather.
Across the Common at Old Town Hall, a steady stream of visitors checked out the town museum on the ground and third floors, managed by the Bedford Historical Society.
Society president and Town Historian Sharon McDonald, who is working on another book of Bedford history, pointed out some recent additions to the collections donated by Ralph Hammond and Doris Smith, former staff members at Center Elementary School. The artifacts were a wooden card catalog drawer from the library, the hand-held bell signaling the end of recess, and an extended screwdriver used to secure student desks to the wooden floor. The school closed in 1979 in response to declining enrollment.
McDonald also showcased some of the features of the “Bedford at Work” exhibit on the ground floor: a Bedford Farms milk deliveryman uniform, Blue Ribbon Dairy bottles, and promotional literature from the Bedford Safety Razor Co., which went head-to-head with Gillette more than a century ago.