Home for the holidays

Village, local groups navigate COVID safety protocols to deliver Yuletide treats

Welcome to Holidays in Hinsdale: Pandemic Edition. Restrictions on gatherings have had a Grinch-like impact, stealing away the ability to hold numerous cherished seasonal programs and activities.

But like Whoville, the community has found ways to overcome the adversity, modifying events and leveraging the magic of technology to delight residents of all ages. Here a some to check out, and see the Holiday Happenings listing starting on Page 30 for more details.

Time slots for socially distanced Photos with Santa in Burlington Park sold out quickly this year, said Heather Bereckis, superintendent of Hinsdale's park and recreation department which sponsors of the event. But kids can still get their wish lists to St. Nick. Through Dec. 15, the mailbox at Village Hall will be receiving letters to Santa - just make sure to include the parent form, which is available through the village's website.

"(Santa's helper) will be sending them to Santa and he will write a personalized letter back to anyone who sends one," Bereckis said.

Help decorate the Hinsdale holiday trees in Burlington Park by making an ornament using weatherproof material. No sharp ends or heavy materials, please, and attach a 10- to 12-inch string or twine for hanging. Bereckis said ornaments should be delivered to village hall between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays by Dec. 7, but submissions a little later than that will be accepted.

"We've got quite a few already," she remarked.

The village's annual tree lighting was filmed for online viewing this year, and the parks and recreation department's most recent newsletter offers some ideas for activities families can do at home. Bereckis said her staff has tried to think out of the box in these unusual times.

"It's been very challenging, but we have a really creative group of people here to make anything happen," she said. "It takes a village, and it really has this year."

And that resorting to resourcefulness has given rise to concepts that will likely have traction

beyond the pandemic.

"It's given us some new ideas, and there's been a number of things - like the ornaments in the park - that we can add or modify for programs like the Easter event, whether it's COVID or no COVID," Bereckis said.

She also promoted the Secret Santa initiative, in which lucky Hinsdale store patrons will be surprised with a $25 gift card valid at any Hinsdale retailer, spa or restaurant.

"Keep shopping local and they may be one of our winners," Bereckis said.

Over at the Hinsdale Public Library, families are invited to sign up for a gingerbread house kit starting Dec. 15, which they can pick up at the library. One kit per Hinsdale family, please.

Dancers on big, small screens

The Salt Creek Ballet will present "The Nutcracker, Act II: Clara's Dream" to allow fans to experience the holiday classic from the comfort of home or in person at a drive-in movie Dec. 5 in Westmont.

Kyle Seguin, the troupe's ballet master who staged the performance, said the show is designed to both entertain and support the organization as a fundraiser.

"We are thrilled to bring keep the tradition of Salt Creek Ballet's 'Nutcracker' going, especially during these difficult times. We wanted to give our dancers the chance to perform and provide our audiences safe ways to enjoy a holiday classic," Seguin said. "Supporters can buy a ticket to the drive-in or a virtual ticket for online viewing."

Performances are at 6:15 and 8:30 p.m.

A cancel-proof performance

The local BAMtheatre troupe has creatively adapted its production of the musical "Beauty & the Beast" to give theater fans a staged treat from the comfort of their homes

Filmed at the Christian Church of Clarendon Hills in early November, more than 100 students signed up to be in one of three casts. Each cast began rehearsals for their production in September, following COVID-19 protocols and breaking into smaller groups during rehearsal time to ensure social distancing. Claire Drews, one of the program's directors, praised the participants for their commitment throughout.

"Though our process looked different on a technical level, what remained consistent and unchanged from shows past was our connection to each other. The students brought such amazing energy and positivity to the experience," Drews said. "I believe that putting on this show was so necessary for them to have a slice of normalcy in these stressful times. I think we can all safely say that this will be an experience to remember for a long time."

Jena Sugai, BAM's managing director, expressed gratitude that they could mount a production at all.

"In March, when the shutdown happened, we had to cancel two weekends of 'Sound of Music' shows that we had been preparing for months," Sugai said. "There were students who never got to perform what they had been working so hard to achieve. It was heartbreaking for the staff, and even more so for the students and their families. We wanted to do everything in our power to protect this from happening again.

"A lot of thought went into producing this show, from its inception to deciding to film it early," she added.

Visit https://www.bamtheatre.com for details on the show's release and tickets.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean