New Lebanon School held its first “Festival of Trees” last weekend in a Covid-save drive-thru event. The community at the brand new school, which opened in February 2019, took advantage of the expansive bus loop.
PTA parent Melissa Truelove, who chaired the hour long event, said the ideas was the result considerable brainstorming.
“It was pretty last minute,” she said. “We really wanted to do something for the school, and everything was getting cancelled. Plus, the budget was limited.”
Truelove, who owns The Dance Pointe in Glenville, said in the past she had brought her dancers to the Junior League of Greenwich’s Enchanted Forest, and that had been an inspiration.
She said when the group settled on the idea of decorating trees she offered up the stage lights from her dance studio.
“The kids had a huge part in it,” she said. “Every grade was assigned a color, and we themed it ‘kaleidoscope.'”
Truelove said while parents are not allowed in the building this year due to Covid, they were able to put a bin in the school for the students to place ornaments and decorations – home made or store bought.
“Success hinged on the teachers encouraging the kids, who mostly created handmade ornaments,” she said. “Plus, the art teacher got involved, and the students made ornaments during art class.”
Truelove organized a tree for every grade and collected all the ornaments the day before the event.
On Saturday morning, PTA parents met on the school field to set up the trees and decorate them with ornaments and lights.
“Our principal was amazing,” Truelove said. “She included the festival of trees in the morning announcements, and that really amped up enthusiasm.”
Nancy Minowitz, the school nurse, said she has lived in town for many years and loved how the event came together.
“It was adorable. The principal and assistant principal were there waving and making it family-oriented and cozy,” she said. “We had over 100 cars and by the end 300 candy canes were gone.”
“These girls are just shining,” Nurse Minowitz said of the volunteers. “Everyone here is super. This group of people are just great for the community.”
Minowitz said 300 candy canes were distributed and about 100 cars drove through, some circling around the loop three or four times to make sure they didn’t miss anything.
Principal Alexandra (Bartholomew) Michaelson said she hoped the event would become an annual tradition.
“Last year our PTA put on an indoor winter wonderland focused on play and games for the kids, and family time featuring Santa,” Michaelson said. “This year, at first we were bummed we wouldn’t be able to replicate that.”
“But everyone put their minds together about how to do something safe,” she recalled. “We started talking about a drive through or a walk through, and how we could still set up decorations and make it relatable to the kids.”
Michaelson said the weather was perfect – a bit foggy but not too cold, just like the North Pole. In fact, she said families from other schools joined the fun.
“Each grade had a tree, and in addition to Santa, PTA members were dressed up in holiday attire,” she said. “The architectural set up allows for a nice turn in and loop through. It was also our diploma drive through for graduation, and now it’s our winter wonderland drive through.”
Truelove said she too hoped the event would become tradition.
“North Mianus School has their Pow Wow. Old Greenwich School has their Pumpkin Patch. Glenville School has a Harvest festival,” she said, noting the timing wouldn’t compete with other school events.
“Maybe next year we can add to the outdoor event and have food trucks,” she said. “While indoors we could have arts & crafts projects and photos with Santa. It could be an annual winter wonderland.”
Assistant Principal Lindsey Eisenstein said she was thrilled the school was able to celebrate the holidays in a Covid-safe way.
“Community events are few and far between this year,” she said. “I really really applaud the effort of the PTA, working creatively and collaboratively. Everyone wore a mask. It was safe and fun for families – and provided some hope for the rest of the school year and 2021.”
For families interested in learning more about New Lebanon School, which is a magnet school, there are two upcoming open house dates via Zoom including virtual tours: Tuesday, Jan 12, 9-10am and Jan 13 from 6:30 to 7:30pm. Check Greenwich School’s website or call the school for more information at (203) 869-1896.