MERIDEN — With an elf, a guitarist and a singer in tow, Santa disembarked the CT Rail train at Meriden station shortly before 3 p.m, to a rousing crowd of hundreds of happy kids and parents.
The second annual YuleFest took place on Colony Street Saturday afternoon. Hundreds of people gathered for a bit of holiday cheer, checking out the businesses on the street and vendors in one of the large empty storefronts. Christmas carols played all up and down the street and Santa was on hand for photo ops.
“It’s fun and festive. The variety of vendors and just seeing everyone lit up due to the holiday … it’s very jolly,” said Melissa Clark, a New Britain resident.
Creating a positive holiday vibe is certainly a main part of the event. Just as important is the continued message that Meriden’s downtown is on the upswing, something city officials and event organizers are careful to reference.
YuleFest “is indicative of the enthusiasm residents have,” said City Councilor Miguel Castro.
Residents’ enthusiasm, in this case, turned into direct action. ‘We all make it happen’
Carrie Teele was inspired to start the event by childhood memories of Santa Claus’ Colony Street arrival on the back of a fire truck. “Let’s do it for the young kids of today so they can build their own memories,” Teele said. “We want to bring downtown back to what we heard about.”
She is stunned by how much residents have embraced what was just an idea a year ago. Last year, Teele and Dave Grodzicki threw the event together in eight weeks. This year, a full committee has been assembled and working since January for the event to go off smoothly.
“It’s amazing how all of us have come together. The outreach has just been phenomenal,” Teele said. “It is beyond what I envisioned. We all make it happen.”
She hopes to see the event grow bigger next year, perhaps extending on to West Main Street.
Carrie Buckley, a Meriden native who decamped to East Hampton, returned to her old haunts with her husband Eric and her two children, Micah, 12, and Brody, 9. As they waited in line for a selfie with Santa, a highlight of the event, she reflected on how different things seem to be.‘A lot of change’
“They are doing a lot of work here in downtown. A lot of changes. A lot of new businesses. They are bringing people downtown who might ordinarily not come,” Buckley said.
Lifelong Meriden resident Laura Corchado came with family and friends. “OK, now your turn,” she said, lifting a little girl wearing reindeer ears into the sleigh next to Santa for her photo.
This event “is for everyone,” Corchado said, noting that since everything is free there is no barrier for people from all segments of the community to participate.
That seems to be it in a nutshell for many of the event organizers. They want people to feel connected to all of the city, including Colony Street.
“This is home. This is our hometown,” Teele said.