Dickens Days to honor life of beloved resident
By Katelyn Gendron
Bob Plasse, chair of Dickens Days and president of Westfield on Weekends, greets Donald Blair as Scrooge during last year's Dickens of a Day Holiday House Tour. |
Reminder Publications submitted photo
Reminder Assistant Editor
WESTFIELD This holiday season will be a time for merriment and remembrance as Westfield on Weekends' (WOW) 6th Annual Dickens Days will honor a beloved resident, Donald Blair.
He was a lifelong resident of Westfield, who dedicated his years to numerous community organizations including WOW, where he played Ebenezer Scrooge on Dickens Days' "A Dickens of a Day Historic House Tour."
"This year's calendar of events is dedicated to Don, whose generous spirit, good will and community service will long be remembered in Westfield," Bob Plasse, chair of Dickens Days and president of WOW, said. "Don was a presence at so many of WOW's events, volunteering his time and energy. Far from being an Ebenezer, he would never 'bah humbug' any request for his help. His service to our community embodied all that Ebenezer learned about giving in Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol.'"
Blair's widow, Johann Taylor, told Reminder Publications she is proud to know that so many in the Westfield community continue to honor his memory.
"He was so passionate about the causes that he worked for," she said. "He put all the passion he had into it. He would do anything for Westfield.
"Don loved an audience," Taylor explained of why her husband enjoyed playing Scrooge during the house tours. "He certainly was no Scrooge by any means."
She said she will be providing WOW with her husband's Scrooge costume and scripted "cheat sheets" for whomever is chosen to play the part this year.
"Don played [Scrooge] to the hilt," Christopher Lindquist, clerk and director of development for WOW, also director of the Westfield Athenaeum, said. "He was a ham at heart and he loved [playing that part] . We are going to miss him so much."
Plasse noted that this year's calendar is larger than ever in honor of Blair and Dickens Days' growing popularity.
He explained that more theater performances have been added this year, including "West Wing" actress Anna Deavere Smith's concert version of "Let Me Down Easy A Play of Evolution" at Westfield State College (WSC) on Nov. 30; "The Littlest Angel" performed by the Westfield Theatre Group with multiple performances at the Westfield Women's Club; and "A Tuna Christmas," a comedy of 24 residents on Christmas Eve in Tuna, Texas, with multiple performances at Piccolo's Restorante.
"When you think the holiday season, many people think Charles Dickens' characters," Plasse said. "We chose Dickens because it was something that was nostalgic and it went together in many, many ways, whether they are skating at Amelia Park during skating with the Cratchits and reading 'A Tale of Two Cities' and talking about it at the library or having tea with Mrs. Claus or enjoying the theatric performances at all of our venues. It's all about getting people together and I think people look for that in this day and age, to be together, celebrate together and be hopeful together."
Lisa McMahon, executive director of the Westfield Business Improvement District (BID), noted that this year many organizations have come together in collaboration for Dickens Days including the city of Westfield, WSC, the Westfield BID and WOW.
"It is such a great community collaborative," she said. "Each year the relationships get stronger and it gets to be more of a community event."
McMahon noted that many events during Dickens Days will take place downtown including the Pioneer Valley Artists Exhibit and sale at the WSC Foundation Downtown Art Galley on Elm Street.
Plasse said those involved in Dickens Days have attempted to provide a calendar of events fit for everyone, even the most Scrooge-like residents.
The complete list of Dickens Days events is as follows:
Nov. 28: Make Way for Father Christmas! Santa's arrival by helicopter at 10 a.m., Amelia Park, 21 South Broad St. FREE!
Nov. 30: "Let Me Down Easy A Play in Evolution" with stage/film/TV star, Anna Deavere Smith at 7:30 p.m., in the Denver Auditorium, WSC. FREE!
Dec. 1: Lanternlight Parade to Mayor's Green Lighting Ceremony. Festivities on the Green at 6 p.m. Caroling with Westfield High School Concert Choir; parade kick-off at 6:15 p.m. Greenlighting at 6:30 p.m. FREE!
Dec. 2: "History of the Connecticut River Valley" lecture at 7:45 p.m., at St. John's Lutheran Church, 60 Broad St. Follows open dinner/ meeting. Dinner is $13. Reservations required so call 568-1116.
Dec. 3: "The Story of the Rails-to-Trails Movement" lecture by Craig Della Penna at 7 p.m. at the Westfield Athenaeum, 6 Elm St. FREE!
Dec 3: Bellisimo! WSC Opera Workshop Concert at 7:30 p.m. in the Dever Auditorium, Parenzo Hall, WSC. FREE!
Dec. 4: Dickens Days Senior Holiday Gala Luncheon/show with Richie Mitnick & Sounds of Music Singers from 12 - 4 p.m. at Tekoa Country Club, 459 Russell Rd. Tickets are $15. (Snowdate: Dec. 5).
Dec. 5: "Memories in the Making," silent auction/art benefits Alzheimer's Association/YMCA. from 6:30 - 9 p.m. in the WSC Administration Building. Cost is $25. Reservations: 568-8631.
Dec 5: "The Littlest Angel," Westfield Theatre Group at 7:30 p.m., at Westfield Woman's Club, 28 Court St. Cost is $12 for adults, 10 for students/seniors. Reservations: 572-2646.
Dec. 6: The Santa Breakfast with seatings at 8:30 - 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. - noon in Scanlon Banquet Hall, WSC. Tickets are $5 for children, $8 for adults. Tables are $70. Reservations: 572-5449. (Snowdate: Dec. 7).
Dec. 6: Santa's Village from 9 -11 a.m., at the YMCA on Court Street. Dec. 6: Pancake Breakfast with Santa. Cost is $5 for ages 5-12, $7 for 12 and over. Photos with Santa: cost $3.
Dec. 6: Family Movietime: "Wall-E," 2 p.m., at the Boys' and Girls' Library Activity Room. FREE!
Dec. 6: Queen Victoria's Victorian Tea at 2 p.m. at the First Congregational Church, 18 Broad St. Cost is $15. Reservations required: 568-2833.
Dec. 6: Christmas Carol Festival with Novi Cantori and New England Brass Quintet at 3:30 pm at the First Congregational Church, 18 Broad Street. FREE!
Dec. 6: "The Littlest Angel," at 7:30 p.m. at the Westfield Woman's Club, 28 Court St. For details see Dec. 5.
Dec. 7: 6th annual Dickens of a Day Historic House Tour from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., begins at Westfield Athenaeum, 6 Elm St. Benefits Western Hampden Historical Society. Cost is $15 at door.
Dec. 7: Skating with the Cratchits, from 1-2:50 p.m. at Amelia Park Ice Arena, 21 South Broad St. Cost is $7 for adults, $5 for children under 14 Skate rental: $3.
Dec. 7: Fa! La! La! La! La! with the Westfield High School Chamber Choir from 2-3 p.m., at Amelia Park Ice Arena, 21 South Broad St. FREE!
Dec. 8: Lights of Hope: Victorian Luminaries on the Green from 6-7:30 p.m. Benefits Cancer House of Hope.
Dec. 9: Tiny Tim's Holiday Tea at 10 a.m. at the Boys' and Girls' Library for ages 3-5. Registration required: 562-6158 ext. 5. FREE!
Dec. 9: Fezziwig's Holiday Faire, Juried crafts market, carolers, Dickens' spirits from 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. at Scanlon Banquet Hall, WSC. FREE!
Dec. 9: WSC Holiday Music Sampler in the Lang Auditorium, Westfield Athenaeum at 7 p.m. FREE!
Dec. 10: WSC Foundation Speakers Series with Dr. Ruth Westheimer, social psychologist at 7 p.m. at the Woodward Center, WSC. FREE!
Dec. 10: "A Tuna Christmas" by WSC Foundation's Theatre Downtown comedy at 8 p.m., at Piccolo's Ristorante, 110 Elm St. Adults: $15. Senior/students: $10. Reservations: 562-2277.
Dec. 11: The Bright Nights Express, Forest Park, Springfield. Buses leave City Hall at 6:15 p.m. $8 ticket includes bus trip of surprises, raffle on each bus and reception at Bright Nights. Reservations required: 562-2277.
Dec. 11: Basie and Beyond! with the WSC Big Band Concert at 7:30 p.m. in the Denver Auditorium, WSC. FREE!
Dec. 11: "A Tuna Christmas" at 8 p.m. at Piccolo's Ristorante, 110 Elm St. For details see Dec. 10.
Dec. 12: "The Littlest Angel" at 7:30 p.m. at Westfield Woman's Club, 28 Court St. For details see Dec. 5.
Dec. 12: In Concert: WSC Chorale at 7:30 p.m. at the Second Congregational Church, 487 Western Ave. FREE!
Dec. 12: "A Tuna Christmas" at 8 p.m. at Piccolo's Ristorante, 110 Elm St. For details see Dec. 10.
Dec. 13: Mother Hubbard's Holiday Tea at 2 p.m. at the Boys' and Girls' Library for ages 3-5. Registration required: 562-6158 ext. 5. FREE!
Dec. 13: Tea with Mrs. Claus from 2-4:30 p.m. at Amelia Park Children's Museum, 29 South Broad St. Tea and storytime for all ages, holiday crafts, face painting. Reservations: 572-4014.
Dec. 13: "The Littlest Angel" at 2 and 7:30 p.m. at the Westfield Woman's Club, 28 Court St. For details see Dec. 5.
Dec. 13: "A Tuna Christmas" at 8 p.m. at Piccolo's Ristorante, 110 Elm St. For details see Dec. 10.
Dec. 13: The Royal "Messiah" Sing-along with Festival Orchestra, Chorus and Soloists at 7:30 p.m. at the Second Congregational Church, 487 Western Ave. Adults $10, Seniors/students $5.
Dec. 14: Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree with Corey and the Knightsmen from 2-3 p.m. at Amelia Park Ice Arena, 21 South Broad St. FREE!
Dec. 15: The Westfield Evening News Community Carol Sing at 6:30 p.m. on the Green. FREE! (Snowdate: Dec. 16).
Dec. 16: "A Tale of Two Cities" film screening at 6 p.m. Book discussion at 7 p.m. at the Westfield Athenaeum, 6 Elm St. FREE!
Dec. 17: "A Christmas Carol," a one-man show starring Bob Laviolette at 2 and 8 p.m. in the Lang Auditorium, Westfield Athenaeum, 6 Elm St. Donations of $5 are suggested. Reservations: 562-2277.
Dec. 18: Martha Cratchit's Holiday Tea at 10 a.m. at the Boys' and Girls' Library for ages 3-5. Registration required: 562-6158 ext. 5. FREE!
Dec. 18: Celebration! Opening reception of Pioneer Valley Artists art exhibit/sale from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at WSC Foundation Downtown Art Gallery, 105 Elm St. FREE!
Dec. 19: Mrs. Cratchit's Holiday Tea at 10 a.m. at the Boys' and Girls' Library for ages 3-5. Registration required: 562-6158 ext. 5. FREE!
Dec. 20: David Copperfield's Crafts Table from 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., at the Boys and Girls' Library. FREE!
Dec. 21: Snowfire! Three fires, a retelling of "The Miracle of the First Poinsettia," followed by a procession to the giant Snowfire from 6:30-8 p.m. at Amelia Park, 21 South Broad St. FREE!
The Santa House: Amelia Park, 21 South Broad St. FREE! ($5 photos with Santa benefit WOW). Open Nov. 28 from 10 a.m. - noon, Saturdays and Sundays from Nov. 29 - Dec. 21 from 3-7 p.m., Dec. 21 from 3-8 p.m. during Snowfire.
Tree and Exhibit: the 18-foot Dickens Days Tree and Exhibit at Westfield Athenaeum, 6 Elm St. Open Mondays - Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. - 8 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. FREE!
Art Exhibit: Celebration! Pioneer Valley Artists art exhibit/sale at the WSC Foundation Downtown Art Gallery, 105 Elm St. Open Tuesdays - Saturdays from 2-5 p.m. and Thursdays from 2-7 p.m.
$5 after 5 Holiday Activities: Amelia Park Children's Museum, 29 South Broad St. on Wednesdays from 5-7 p.m.
Dickens Days in Restaurants: carolers, Olde English breakfasts and Dickens Days Dinner specials available at various times at restaurants throughout Westfield including: Adrienne's, Buon Appetito, The Good Table, Piccolo's Ristorante, The Runway Restaurant, School Street Bistro, Shaker Farms Country Club, The Tavern, The Tea Pot Gallery and Zuber's.
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