B y Jamie Norton

Not to be left out of the season-opening celebration were Granville’s two museums – the Slate Valley Museum and the Pember Library and Museum – both of which saw hundreds of people in the holiday spirit waltzing through their doors.

A lot of “pre-gaming” was done at the SVM, which opened its doors for the ever-popular and always-impressive Festival of Trees, among other things. Santa and Mrs. Claus were there to offer a hearty handshake or a hug to kids of all ages next to a number of cookies, brownies and other sweet treats. And there were plenty of unique and fascinating trees to be seen.

“This is one thing that my staff loves to do,” said SVM Director Krista Rupe. “They just love doing it because they know the reaction they’re going to get from the community is going to be positive and fulfilling. They get in the holiday spirit.”

There were countless themed trees all over the place, some constructed just for the sake of a pleasing, holiday-themed aesthetic, some built in memory of lost loved ones, others done for the sake of giving and charity.

One such tree was decorated with hand-crafted winter caps and accessories, free for any child to take. Of the 200 or so that were on the tree, Rupe estimated they gave away about half, and the rest will be available through the end of the Festival of Trees, which remains on display until Dec. 12. Anything left will be donated to Head Start.

Another was decked out in non-perishable foods to encourage donation to local food pantries. And another one, which has skyrocketed in popularity, was the “Random Acts of Kindness” tree, inspired by Tony Celani, the late husband of Slate Valley Museum president Molly Biggs Celani.

“Tony was a person who did a lot of things for people, and he was very quiet about doing it,” Celani said. She said she honored her late husband’s wishes not to have any kind of a memorial service, but she wanted to use the tree as a reminder of his gracious nature. People could choose from hundreds of “acts of kindness” from things as simple as “Tell someone you appreciate them” to more monetary-driven acts including donations to charity or treating someone to a meal.

“It ended up being the kind of thing that transcends Christmas,” Celani said. “I am pleased that people remembered him in that way. Many friends of his, when they were here the other night, told me they had gotten something from the tree. I think he would have approved of it.”

In addition to cookies, free hats, and a visit with Santa, kids also got to take part in an artistic slate project. Rupe said she enjoyed seeing the children and their parents participate in that and all of the other activities.

“I love when families come into the museum together and they learn together,” she said. “It’s always nice to welcome the whole family in.”

“We were pleased that the museum was considered a destination by so many people,” Celani said. “Everybody seemed to be excited and pleased.”

After the tree-lighting ceremony, many families made their way to the Pember, where more low-key activities were going on. With “Moose Crossing,” a jazz band from Poultney, Vt., providing live background music, the library held its Festival of Wreaths – a less-popular but still-growing complement to the SVM’s tree display – as well as its Holiday Craft Fair. Local artisans brought an interesting variety of hand-made crafts to show off and to sell, including puppets, small paintings and painted objects, dolls, white elephants and yarn creations.

“It was just wonderful, heartwarming, family togetherness,” said Gigi Zeitler, advisor to the board of trustees at the Pember. “The celebration was in the air. We did well, we had great attendance, the kids were bright eyed and happy. It just is a magnificent day for the community.”

“The Pember was gorgeous because of the wreaths, and the craft fair was great,” Rupe said. “The crafts were very unique. Just like the trees, people put a lot of effort into the wreaths that were up there.”

The wreaths decked the walls of the library and added to the warm atmosphere. Like the trees at the Slate Valley Museum, they will be on display and open for bidding through Dec. 12.

“We have a bid on every wreath and some of them have been bid up quite a bit,” Zeitler said. “There was such amazing variety and inventiveness in the types of wreaths that people created. It was a stunning display, and I’m so happy that there was such a response to it.”

All in all, the First Friday co-op between the museums went hand-in-hand with the tree-lighting festivities quite perfectly, keeping downtown Granville alive and filled with holiday excitement.

“This combined First Friday, trees, park-lighting ceremony is such an outstanding commencement to the holiday season,” Zeitler said. “This is a little town that is putting on something that is on the level of large European cities. Who wouldn’t want to bring their children and see the spectacle of this?”

“I thought it was a very successful night for the whole village,” Celani said.



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