Cool Events This Weekend, Here & Beyond

It’s all about the holidays. We see the emphasis on giving through special events that benefit pets, the Blackstone Library, and support of the new Ben Callahan Foundation. We’re encouraged to shop locally through open houses and enjoying our picturesque downtown. We can enjoy the season through classics such as the Messiah and the Nutcracker and concerts at the libraries, as well as art shows featuring talented locals. Goes to show you that the holidays don’t have to be about bow-bedecked cars and crowds at the malls. Got a cool event? Email sebahner@snet.net by Wednesday noon. 

Saturday, Dec. 2

Fill the Forester

The Greater New Haven Cat Project’s Fill the Forester for Ferals takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, at Premier Subaru, 150 North Main St. Donna Velardi, animal communicator and certified animal massage therapist, will be on hand to give five-minute readings. For more information, email gnhcp1@gnhcp.org.

The SAT or the ACT? 

Standardized Testing Options & the College Admissions Timeline, presented by Bulldog Tutors takes place from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, at Blackstone Library’s Lucy Hammer Room.

Jas Jernaill, managing director of Bulldog Tutors, will discuss how to navigate the university admissions process. Topics will include standardized testing options, how to build a successful college admissions application, and how the admissions timeline differs for aspiring student athletes. The talk will run for about 30 minutes with 15 minutes of questions to follow.

This talk is appropriate for juniors and sophomores, as seniors will be at the tail end of this process come December.

Registration for this program is required since space is limited. Call 203-488-1441, extension 323.

Ben Callahan Elf Party

This year’s Elf Party will be hosted by the Ben Callahan Memorial Foundation on Saturday, Dec. 2, at Walsh Intermediate School, 185 Damascus Road.

All proceeds will go directly to providing a full Christmas experience complete with dinner, a Christmas tree, and personalized gifts to families in need across New Haven County.

The Elf Party is open to children ages 8 to 14. One T-shirt per child is included with registration. Prizes will be awarded for the best Elf costumes. Activities include video game stations, inflatable wrecking ball pit, ornament and cookie decorating, movies, popcorn, DJ and more.

Admission is $50/child, $90/family of 2. $135/family of three or more. When registering use the name/info of the parent/guardian only, not each child. Register at bencallahan.org/elfparty17.

Swinging Nutcracker

“Side by Side: The Nutcracker Swings!” featuring the Yale Concert Band and Yale Jazz Ensemble with Thomas C. Duffy, music director, takes place Saturday, Dec. 2, at 2 p.m. at Woolsey Hall, 500 College St. (See top photo).

In this performance, the Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky Nutcracker Suite, as arranged for concert band by Mayhew L. Lake, will be performed alongside the Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn setting for jazz band. Celebrate the holiday season with this study in interpretation, in two classic arrangements of The Nutcracker Suite. Leroy Anderson’s traditional favorite, Sleigh Ride, also will be performed.

Admission is free and no tickets are required, but donations will be collected to support IRIS (Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services). Call 203-432-4111 for more information.

25th Annual Holiday Open House at 188 North Main St.

Support Feed Branford Kids, a local non-profit helping to feed kids from families in need, through the 25th Annual Holiday Open House, now hosted by Cynthia’s Flower Shop, the Martha Link Walsh Gallery, and Luckey Redo. The event takes places on Saturday, Dec. 2 and Sunday, Dec. 3, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and features handmade gifts for the holidays,

On Saturday at 1 p.m., Cynthia’s Flower Shop is hosting a Hanging Succulent Terrarium Workshop. Attendees will plant succulents inside a glass terrarium and select a holiday ribbon for hanging. The cost for the workshop is $15; call to register, 203-481-3115.

The Holiday Open House is free and open to the public with refreshments provided by Take the Cake (Guilford) and special surprises all weekend! For more information, contact: Martha Link Walsh, marthalinkwalsh.com, 203-481-3505.

Traditional Christmas Fair

The traditional Christmas Fair at First Baptist Church of Branford, 975 Main St., will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, offering everything in the spirit of the season.

All proceeds go to the Dominican Republic Joe Hartman School Mission Project and Feed Branford Kids. Shoppers will find a large selection of gifts, tag sale, breakfast sandwiches from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and lunch available after 11:30 a.m. There will be holiday music by pianist Michael Cretella and Santa will visit with children and be available for pictures.

Call the church office at 203-488-9777 for additional information.

Friday, Dec. 6

Sip, Shop, Stroll Downtown Branford

Branford’s Town Center merchants will be open Friday, Dec. 6, from 5 to 8 p.m. for an evening of sipping, shopping and strolling.

Enjoy special holiday promotions from some of various businesses and indulge in beverages and sweet and savory snacks. Most will be offering special discounts on merchandise and gift certificates, as well as wine and cheese, cocoa and cookies, cider, punch and various sweets.

Participating merchants include Angel Paws Dog Grooming & Spa, Branford Art Center Gallery and Art Workshop, Denali, Fired Up!, Myers Flower Shop, Polished Boutique, Possessions, LLC, soundRUNNER, Sweets on Main, Shops at 116 North Main Plaza, Towne Pharmacy, Merle Norman Cosmetics & Boutique, and Butterfly Effect Boutique.

Friends of Blackstone Library Gift Basket Sale

The Friends of the Blackstone Library will hold its sale on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 5 to 8 p.m.; Thursday, Dec. 7, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 8, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturday, Dec. 9, 9 a.m. to noon. Supplies are limited so shop early.

Categories include gourmet food, global and domestic travel, pet care, select books, etc., with a range of affordable prices. Baskets are wrapped in cellophane and personally assembled by the “elves.” They can be hand delivered with no worry about shipping.

Proceeds from the sale support the initiatives of the Friends of James Blackstone Memorial Library, 758 Main St. For more information visit https://www.facebook.com/JBMLfriends/ or http://www.blackstone.lioninc.org/friends/.

Anniversary Art Show

Jay BabinaBranford Land Trust’s 50th Anniversary Art Show takes place on Friday, Dec. 8, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Land Trust House, 26 School St. in Stony Creek.

Works by a wide range of local artists will reflect the BLT’s mission to preserve open space in Branford, and to promote the community’s appreciation of Branford’s diverse natural features. The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

A Cool Yule

The Friends of Willoughby Wallace Memorial Library present “A Cool Yule” with the Thimble Islands Saxophone Quartet at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8, at Willoughby Wallace Library, 146 Thimble Islands Road, for a concert of traditional Christmas and special holiday music.

There will be refreshments before the concert from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15, available at the library or by calling 203-488-8702.

Saturday, Dec. 9

Holiday Cookie Walk

Branford Compassion Club hosts its annual holiday cookie walk 11 a.m.to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, at its Feline Rescue & Adoption Center, 2037 Foxon Road.

Homemade cookies can be purchased for $4 a dozen, and there will also be a selection of charming homemade cat-motif pillowcases and “mug rugs” with designs ranging from the sophisticat to the whimsical. All proceeds from the sale benefit the shelter’s homeless felines.

Refreshments, including eggnog and samples of homemade cookies, will be served. Cash donations will be accepted. For more information visit www.branfordcompassionclub.org.

Branford Chorale Concert

Winter Reflections, the Branford Chorale Winter concert, takes place on Saturday, Dec. 9, at 7:30 p.m. at Tabor Lutheran Church, 45 Tabor Drive.

The chorale will be singing many holiday and seasonal favorites and will perform a special tribute to some of the great musicians who recently died. Reserve tickets ($15 adult, $13 seniors 60 and older and children 12 and under) by emailing Maggie Bruno, mmbruno@earthlink.net, at this e-mail or Andrew Woods, woods.andrew@comcast.net. Tickets will be available at the door.

Branford Arts and Cultural Alliance Hosts Holiday Market

The Branford Arts and Cultural Alliance will host its first Holiday Market and Open House, featuring arts, crafts, music, food and holiday gift ideas, from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 9 and 10, at Arts & Crafts Allen House on 265 Pine Orchard Road. Admission is free.

Twenty vendors will offer a variety of locally produced items from painters, sculptors, jewelry makers, soap and candle makers, fiber artists, potters and foodies just in time for the holiday gift-giving season. The indoor market will also feature baked goods from the possible future chefs from Branford High School’s Culinary Arts program.

Branford High School Music Makers, under the direction of Mike Martone, Jr., will perform at 2:30 p.m. Joyful Sound, the town’s newest choral group, directed by Cathyann Roding, will perform late Sunday afternoon.

The home’s owners, past and present, have shared the unusual property with local charities for house tours, garden events and other philanthropic endeavors, and the Allens continue the tradition.

Vaiuso Farms, Inc., another town tradition since 1927, is furnishing poinsettias and garlands to spruce up the interior décor for the market and open house. Shelley’s Garden Center is handling the exterior decorating.

For information on upcoming BACA events, email Frank Carrano at f.carrano@att.net or visit the Branford Arts and Cultural Alliance on Facebook.

Sunday, Dec. 10

ACA Enrollment Event

Connecticut Shoreline Indivisible will sponsor the only Affordable Care Act enrollment fair on Sunday, Dec. 10, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Branford Fire Headquarters, 45 N. Main St.

Brokers will be available at no cost to help choose the best plan for you and your family and to sign up for Affordable Health Care. Two Spanish/English translators will be available.

For more information, go to https://www.facebook.com/events/127738651270758/

Breakfast with Santa at St. Mary School

Breakfast with Santa takes place on Sunday, Dec. 10, from 8 a.m. to noon at St. Mary School at 62 Cedar St. Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for children and $7 for seniors. Kids under 2 are free.

Music Makers Holiday Concert

The Music Makers from Branford High School will perform a selection of holiday classics, including traditional carols, music from the European Renaissance and modern selections, from 2 to 3:15 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10, at the Blackstone Library, 758 Main St. A short sing-a-long will follow.

The Music Makers are an elite group of singers chosen from all of the singers in the Branford High School Choral Program. They are considered the “musical ambassadors” of not only the school, but of the Town of Branford as well.

Projects such as “Rock and Roll over Beethoven,” “The Prayer Cycle,” and “Bach to Rock” have been the catalysts for carrying on their mission of peace and goodwill.

They have performed in England, France, Austria, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Ireland, Scotland, and many places in the United States.

Sponsored by the Friends of the Library. Space is limited, RSVP required. Call 203-488-1441.

Call for Singers and Holiday Concert

Branford Messiah, now in its 31st year, will perform Part I of Handel’s Messiah on Friday, Dec. 22, at 7:30 p.m. in the First Congregational Church on the Branford Green. 

Community singers are invited to join the chorus at rehearsals and for the concert. All voice ranges are welcome. Rehearsals are Sunday, Dec. 10, 2 to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday Dec. 17, from 2 to 4:30 p.m.; and Wednesday, Dec. 20, 7 to 9:30 p.m. All rehearsals take place in the Meetinghouse at the First Congregational Church in Branford.  The chorus will rehearse with the orchestra on Friday, Dec. 22, at 5:30 p.m., prior to the start of the concert at 7:30 p.m.

Well-known conductor Roy Wiseman, a professional chamber orchestra, and soloists join over 50 community singers to share the joy of the season in a beautiful and festive space. Soloist are Lielle Berman-soprano, Rebecca Ringle Kamarei-mezzo soprano, Edward Hull-tenor and Jorell Williams-baritone.  The Branford Messiah will also be celebrating and honoring Edward Hull of Branford who has performed as the tenor soloist for 30 years.  The musical experience was launched in 1986 by Ettie Minor Luckey,

For more information or to sign-up to sing email dga0126@yahoo.com or visit branfordmessiah.org.

Exhibit at Friends & Company

Artist Bob DietzThree local artists will be exhibiting at Friends & Company, 11 Boston Post Road, Madison, through February. An opening reception will take place Sunday, Dec. 10, 2:30 to 4 p.m. Featured will be the works of Bob Dietz, Regina Thomas, and Robert Thomas.

Bob Dietz has worked in watercolors and pastels and for the past three years he has been producing landscapes and seascapes primarily in pastel. He works from photos, most of which he takes himself.  His paintings are inspired from trips to Cape Cod, Nova Scotia, Maine, upstate New York, Europe, and the Connecticut shoreline. A member of the Connecticut Pastel Society, Madison Art Society and the Lyme Art Society. He is currently represented by Maple and Main Gallery of Fine Art in Chester.

Regina Thomas will be exhibiting mixed media works. She experiments with different mediums and methods and varying genres from representational to expressionistic and abstract. She is represented by Spectrum Gallery in Centerbrook.

Robert Thomas says that he enjoys the camera’s ability to accurately capture the moment and reflect the vision of what he sees. He has learned not just to document, but to apply the creative aspects of composition and the freedom offered with digital image processing. His themes are inspired by the landscapes, be they urban or rural, and the imagery captured in reflective surfaces, weathered and worn structures, as well as the beauty and fragility found in nature.

Beginning Dec. 12

Chanukah Begins

Chanukah (Hanukkah) starts on the Hebrew calendar date of 25 Kislev, and lasts for eight days. This year it runs through Dec. 20. The first candle of the Menorah is lit at nightfall—Dec. 12 this year. Branford usually has a Menorah on the green. Here is some background on Chanukah, courtesy of the Chabad of the Shoreline website.  What Is Hanukkah? - All the info you need to know about Chanukah

Through Dec. 15

Toys for Tots drop off

Stony Creek Urgent Care has been designated as a drop off location for the US Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program, whose mission is collect new, unwrapped toys and distribute them to less fortunate children in the community. Collections will be made through Dec. 15 at 6 Business Park Drive, 3rd floor, suite 302, 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Hats, Gloves, and Mittens Needed

CELC Middle School is accepting donation of new or gently used warm accessories (hats, gloves, mittens, scarves) for students arriving from Puerto Rico and Mexico due to natural disasters. 

Bring items to bins in lobby of 28 School Street, by Friday, Dec. 15. Email Melinda or Maria at mandm@CTEXperiential.org or call 203 433 4658 for more information.

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