No official Westport tree? Bridge lighting could span the gap
I read with great interest an article in a recent issue of the Westport News regarding the fact that our town doesn't have an official Christmas tree and as such an "official tree lighting" ceremony to mark the beginning of the holiday season.
As you may know it has been nearly 10 years since a group of friends, enjoying a holiday party at John Guinta's house, came up with the idea of "lighting" the blue Saugatuck River Bridge. We went through a series of meetings and processes with then-First Selectman Diane Farrell to gain approval to actually light the bridge at no cost to the town of Westport. Diane was a great supporter of this gesture of good will to the people of our town.
That very first year, a handful of us with the help of the Westport Police Department closed off the vehicular traffic on the bridge at 3 a.m. on an early November morning so that we could wrap the bridge with colored lights. Folks like Frank Generoso, Pete Romano, Steve Rubin, Vinny Penna, Lou Santella, John Guinta, George DiGuido, Scott and Rob Krauss and many others took their turn hanging from the steel girder to make this magic happen.
And so it is that the tradition began and has evolved over the past decade.
On the Mansion Clam House side of the bridge; the DiGuido family donated the power supply to light this bridge along with the lights that adorn the bridge as well as the six evergreens that now dot the plaza. These trees have been planted with love and in the hope now through our association with Al's Angels (our charity that provides holiday meals and gifts to children battling rare blood diseases, cancer and severe financial distress) the good people of Westport see the lights as a beacon to remind all of us of our obligation to help those in need.
We continue to receive countless letters and comments about how beautiful the lights look on the bridge and the bordering trees from residents and passersby.
Our "unofficial" lighting of the bridge happens on the evening of Thanksgiving. Just this year about a dozen of us stood in the dark and drizzle while our grandson John threw the switch to light the bridge. For all of us there at the foot of this unique and beautiful bridge ... the lighting means the beginning of the holiday season. The bridge will be lit for the entire holiday season and then go dark after New Year's.
Here's an idea. While it is true that Westport doesn't have an official tree lighting ceremony, there is no reason why Al's Angels and the town couldn't get together and make the bridge lighting the "official" holiday season lighting event for our town. We would move the date to a time that works for our town. It would be incredible if we could close this bridge down for several hours on one magical night and have local restaurants provide hot chocolate, doughnuts and other holiday treats actually on the bridge when we throw the switch and light the bridge !!!! We could have area vocal groups provide holiday music. I know that Santa and Frosty would definitely make an appearance.
While other towns may have "trees," there is only one town that has a bridge like ours. As Westporters, we love the differences in our town. Let's celebrate them. Let's make the lighting of the Al's Angels Bridge of Hope the "official" Westport holiday season lighting. All of this can be done with little or no expense to our town.
If you are interested in joining me in making this happen ... let me know.
Al and Chris DiGuido and the team at Al's Angels would be excited to coordinate this event and have many more people in the town join us in ringing in the new holiday season by the official lighting of our beautiful bridge. You can contact Al DiGuido at firstname.lastname@example.org
P.S.: Through the generosity of so many, Al's Angels has provided over 2,000 families and 5,000 children with holiday meals and toys this year ... It's been an incredible season. We couldn't have done this work without the outpouring of love by so many Westport and Fairfield County families