STONINGTON — When members of the Stonington Village Improvement Association hosted their annual tree lighting ceremony at Wadawanuck Square in early December, revelers were treated to a bigger spectacle than in recent years.
Standing to the west of the Stonington Free Library, the Stonington Village Tree Lighting Ceremony and Holiday Stroll gave the association an opportunity to show off a 30-foot Norway spruce that had made its way to the square in late November.
"It was amazing to see. When the lights were turned on (Dec. 6), it led the crowd to let out a big 'Whoa,'" said Dodie Bump, a board member. "For many, it was the first time they had seen it. But we wouldn't have been able to have it ready in time for the holiday if not for the help many organizations in the village."
The installation of the tree was the culmination of a team effort, Bump said, and helped to bring both holiday cheer and a meaningful addition to the square that the whole town could be proud of.
The project came before the improvement group a few years ago, according to Kathryn Burchenal, the president. The square, a central feature of Stonington Borough, was left with a large hole when storms caused significant damage to several evergreen trees on the property.
Many of the trees had previously been decorated for the holiday season, and after they were removed, the holiday light display was diminished.
"It led to an effort to install a new tree and we attempted to do that prior to last Christmas. The thing is, it never grew," Burchenal explained. "People enjoyed the Charlie Brown Christmas tree, as it became known, but we still had a void to fill."
That's when the village came together, Bump and Burchenal said.
The association provided the bulk of the funding for the purchase of the tree, with assistance from local organizations including the Stonington Garden Club and the Stonington Community Center. Bump said the tree was selected from a field in Storrs, Conn., with the help of Brad Painter and Nora MacDonnell, of MacDonnell & Painter Landscape Design.
Burchenal said she and board member Kirby Williams then worked with Amanda Barnes to navigate local regulations and requirements before the tree was installed.
Bump and Burchenal said many other businesses also donated their time and efforts to helping decorate the tree in time for the holiday celebration.
In the end, Burchenal said, the project showed what can be done when community organizations come together.
"This project truly took a village to come to fruition," Burchenal said. "Over the last few weeks, everything came together with the help of many individuals and businesses who went above and beyond to make this happen."