Winter Welcome gives community chance to experience holiday spirit

Children ran around playing in the circle of grass with orange frisbees they had won from spinning the Blaze Pizza “Wheel of Fire" at the annual Winter Welcome event Saturday, Dec. 2 at Storrs Center. (Hanaisha Lewis/The Daily Campus)

Children ran around playing in the circle of grass with orange frisbees they had won from spinning the Blaze Pizza “Wheel of Fire" at the annual Winter Welcome event Saturday, Dec. 2 at Storrs Center. (Hanaisha Lewis/The Daily Campus)

Walking through Storrs Center on Saturday, Dec. 2 during the annual Winter Welcome event was like walking through a Christmas movie. The University of Connecticut Chordials stood on the corner steps singing “Carol of the Bells.” Children ran around playing in the circle of grass with orange frisbees they had won from spinning the Blaze Pizza “Wheel of Fire.” Adults milled around, enjoying the music, admiring the ice sculptures by UConn dining services, crossing the street hand-in-hand with children to go meet Santa in Barnes and Noble and chatting around the police cruiser being stuffed with gifts for Mansfield families in need.

The Mansfield Downtown Partnership sponsors the Winter Welcome, as they have done for five years running. The entire list of activities could be found on their website, which began as early as 8 a.m. when Christmas trees went on sale at E.O. Smith High School and ended as late as 8 p.m. with the Holiday Pops Concert in Jorgensen. Between special deals at a number of local businesses, strolling performances from a number of music groups and a number of events and activities geared for children, the celebration in Storrs Center culminated at 4:30 p.m. with a sing-along led by the choirs from E.O. Smith.

“The Mansfield Downtown Partnership does a good job bringing people to a common location,” said Bob Smith, an employee for the UConn bookstore.

Willington resident Philip Hollister noted that Storrs Center has made this sort of celebration possible.

“It’s nice to have a place to have events like this,” Hollister said.

Hollister’s daughter and Willington resident Alison Hollister expanded on why events such as the Winter welcome are important.

“They help everyone get in the Christmas spirit,” Alison Hollister said. “It’s about everyone coming together.”

Stuff-a-Cruiser was just one example of the way community members came together. Resident state trooper Sean Hickey explained Stuff-a-Cruiser was asking for donations of unwrapped toys or gift cards, which will go towards helping 70 Mansfield families in need this Christmas season.

“These kids aren’t asking for things like X-boxes or iPhones,” Hickey said. “They’re looking for gloves, scarves, necessities.”

They plan to collect more items next Saturday, Dec. 9 at the East Brook Mall. The items will be directly handed to families in need by the Mansfield Human Services department.

“As state troopers we’re often seeing worse case scenarios,” Hickey said. “This is the opposite. We’re actually there to hand the toys to families, there to see the smiles. It’s nice to see the community helping each other out.”

By the end of the day as the sky was darkening, the E.O. Smith choir came out of CVS where they’d last been caroling to stand on the steps in Storrs Center. Students handed out sheets of paper with the lyrics for the carols they planned on singing. Families gathered around. A person dressed like a Christmas tree strolled through the crowd. The fifth annual Winter Welcome ended with a community’s rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”


Alex Houdeshell is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at alexandra.houdeshell@uconn.edu.