Chester News

Christmas in the Village a Hallmark of the Holiday Season
By Leslie O’Donnell 11-14-16

The Christmas elves are ramping up their activities in preparation for the annual Christmas in the Village craft fair, set for Saturday, Dec. 3 at Chester Congregational Baptist Church’s vestry.

The long-time tradition features everything local – ingenious craft items, homemade desserts, home-canned goods for the winter larder, and that perfect piece of vintage jewelry to complete a holiday outfit.

Deb Field of Chester, who has been coordinating the annual event for more than a decade, said Christmas in the Village is the church’s biggest fundraiser of the year.

Field said that years ago, the historical society would conduct tours of historical homes in town at the Christmas season, while the Lions Club held a loaf and ladle lunch. By the time Field moved to the area and became involved, the historical home tours had stopped.

These days, Christmas in the Village centers on the variety of items offered for sale in the church vestry, with a Loaf and Ladle lunch continuing at Stevens Memorial Hall across the street, and the Chester Seniors holding a cookie walk.

“The fair focuses on crafts – lots of knitted goods, a lot of us using reclaimed items,” Field said. “We have repurposed mittens made from sweaters, and created wooden items from reclaimed wood. I’ve probably made a thousand mittens over the years!”

Field said she and a core group of four women work throughout the year to create unique crafts to sell. “We have a high standard for what comes in,” she said.

This year the group is promoting a “country store” theme, with homemade jams, jellies, salsa, applesauce and tomato sauce, as well as produce canned from the garden the church raised out back this summer.

And a favorite feature each year is Tiffany’s of Chester, which offers treasures of costume jewelry. “You can always find cool, vintage pieces,” Field said.

Sue and Phil Cassista of Chester will be at Christmas in the Village once again this year, providing live music, including Christmas carols, on guitar, fiddle and harp – their donation to the annual event.

And if that isn’t enough, there’s a bake shop featuring homemade treats, and mulled cider for the thirsty.

“I had helped with church fairs at the previous church I attended, and when I started going here, they asked me what I had done before,” she recalled. Coordination of the fair fell into her lap.

Now, a group known as Spirit Works spends their time crafting items – both new and traditional favorites – for Christmas in the Village. Field said Marge Pagliuca of Raymond is a font of ideas for new crafts, getting many of those ideas from her sister in the Bay State.

“It’s awesome – I have all these elves doing all this crafting,” Field said.

And what is taking up her creative time this year? “We ran out of gnomes last year, and they’re a big thing,” Field said. “This week was gnome week for me.” She said the fair offers both wooden gnomes as well as a larger felt and wool collection of creatures 15 to 18 inches tall.

But uniqueness is important. “We don’t try to make 50 of one thing,” Field emphasized. “Everything is one-of-a-kind.”

What to expect on the craft tables in addition to gnomes and recycled mittens? Plenty of knitted and crocheted hats and scarves and neck warmers, along with some jewelry.

Field said people from out of town, particularly Manchester, travel to Christmas in the Village. “We have a good reputation for quality,” she said.

“I think we’re a little bit unique in what we have to offer,” she added. “Everything about the event is local. And with our country store this year, you could make up your own gift basket of goodies.”

Field is pleased that 100 percent of the proceeds from Christmas in the Village go toward the continuing mission of the church – as do the proceeds from the Loaf and Ladle meal across the street.

All that shopping can make fair-goers hungry, and to take care of that, they can head across the street to the historic Stevens Memorial Hall for the Loaf and Ladle Luncheon.

Colleen Towle of Chester, who has coordinated Loaf and Ladle for more years than she can remember, said that event was started by the Chester Lions to complement the Chester Historical Society’s tour of houses. When the house tours stopped, Towle said she stepped in to take over. Fellow Lions continue to help her at the luncheon, and all proceeds benefit the church.

For $7, Loaf and Ladle offers a meal of soup, bread, dessert and beverage, and all the food is homemade. “I make most of it because I like to cook,” Towle said.

She said there are usually three kinds of soup – often beef barley, corn chowder, and a chicken soup – and they may feature vegetables from residents’ gardens. Towle emphasized that all the bread is homemade as well. The homemade dessert varies each year.

While Loaf and Ladle runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Towle said sometimes they run out early.

Christmas in the Village is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3 in the Chester Congregational Baptist Church vestry at 4 Chester St. The Loaf and Ladle Luncheon is served across the street at Stevens Memorial Hall from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Stevens Hall is also the site for the Chester Seniors’ Cookie Walk at 9 a.m.

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