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With decorations, Bridge of Flowers will shine brightly through holidays

November 25, 2020 : Greenfield Recorder, by Anita Fritz

SHELBURNE FALLS — People didn’t have the opportunity this year to enjoy the colors the Bridge of Flowers produces up close, but they will have a chance to drive by and see the bright lights this holiday season.

Bridge of Flowers Committee member Carol Angus said the local landmark will “spring to life in the dark” starting Friday, when new lights and decorations will be lit thanks to the Great Shelburne Falls Area Business Association and a $30,000 grant it received through MassDevelopment’s Commonwealth Places program.

“The new lighting for the bridge is part of a broader campaign being financed by the grant to enhance the appearance of the villages — Shelburne Falls and Buckland — during the holiday season and throughout the year,” Angus explained.

Although the gates to the bridge will remain closed as they have all year as a result of the pandemic, come Friday and continuing through February, the popular destination will shine with sparkling stars attached to its arched exterior and a festive tree adorned with seeded pine cones, miniature birdhouses and seed “cookies” that will attract and feed the over-wintering bird populations.

Fourth-grade students of Lillian Whitsett’s class at Buckland-Shelburne Elementary School are making the ornaments and plan to hang them on the tree themselves.

“We have so many people to thank for this very special community effort to make the village of Shelburne Falls a more attractive destination, especially in the dark months of the winter season,” said Bridge of Flowers Committee Chair Annette Szpila.

She said the leadership of Shelburne Falls resident Whit Sanford was what led to acquiring the grant for the business association. The association’s goals are to revitalize downtown with lighting and seasonal decorations, and provide sustaining grants for local businesses hard-hit by the pandemic and the downturn in tourism due to COVID-19.

The Bridge of Flowers is partnering with the business association in an effort to raise the matching $30,000 required by the grant, Angus noted.

“The bridge is such a vital presence in this community, and its closure has had a real impact on the economy of the whole area,” she said. “So, it made perfect sense for us to pitch in to help raise the match.”

The Shelburne Falls Initiative Work Group, chaired by Sanford, worked on the grant proposal and has set up a crowdfunding site at The deadline for donations is at the end of December.

Sanford echoed Szpila’s praise for everyone who volunteered their time and talents on the project. Among those she thanks are local potter Molly Cantor and local glassblower Josh Simpson.

“They contributed their wise counsel in shaping the grant proposal,” she said. “Another person whose skills have proved invaluable is Nan Parati, former owner of Elmer’s in Ashfield.”

Parati designed the new decorations for the Bridge of Flowers, as well as others for downtown to be installed in the future. She was aided by a team of volunteers who worked to set up two holiday trees in town — one on Conway Street and one on the corner of Bridge and Deerfield streets — and to install lights and other decorations on the Bridge of Flowers. Parati said Nick Doneilo has been the “can-do person for us.” He was assisted by his father Steve, Paul Gifford, Darryl McCloud, Mike Scranton, Ben Collins and Son Treme.

The tree for the Bridge of Flowers was donated by Nancy Hoff, owner of Ashfield Hardware & Supply. Ashfield resident Rob Taft built the tree stands.

Numerous shop and restaurant owners are expressing their support for the brighter look of the Bridge of Flowers by agreeing to keep their doors open until 8 p.m. on Friday nights beginning this week and continuing through the holiday season. The extended shopping hours provide a safer substitute for the popular one-night festival called Moonlight Magic, which was canceled this year to avoid large gatherings.

Mask wearing and social distancing must be observed throughout town in all shops and restaurants.