In Manchester, tradition and creativity are fitting ornaments for town tree

  • Manchester Elementary fifth-grader Haleigh Gardner, left, places a handmade ornament on the Town Hall tree in front of the Memorial Building on York Street. Under the direction of art teacher Amy Smith, students at the school followed a tradition by making ornaments and bringing them from the school next door to the town tree.
Manchester Elementary fifth-grader Haleigh Gardner, left,… (Staff Photo by Brian Krista )
November 21, 2012|By Katie V. Jones

Before they could decorate the Town of Manchester's Christmas tree this week, the class of 21 fifth-graders at Manchester Elementary School had one more critical task to perform.

"I forgot to put a hole in the ornaments!" admitted Amy Smith, the students' art teacher, with a chuckle.

With the help of a parent, hole punchers were passed out and the students quickly punched holes and put the finishing touches — twisty ties — onto the ornaments they use to bring their hometown into the holiday season.

Manchester has the tradition of using students' ornaments to decorate the Christmas tree at town hall, which will be lit at a ceremony scheduled for Friday, Nov. 23.

Part of that tradition is that the ornaments have a humble beginning.

"We got a bunch of greeting cards and then a Sharpie and a round lid," said Pal Chokshi, 10. "We cut the circle shape, and took two cards and pressed them together."

From there, the paper ornaments were laminated, and each student was given seven or eight to hang.

For the past eight years, Smith has had different classes decorate the tree with ornaments made from a variety of materials.

"They've done metal ornaments with art metal and glitter. We made stuff out of wood last year," Smith said, though she acknowledged a slight flaw. "They were really heavy, and just fell off. These work well and they are so colorful."

Smith said using greeting cards this year followed a recycling theme, "Something already used and we use it again."

On Tuesday, Nov. 20, after a brisk walk from the school along York Street to Town Hall, the students descended on the stout tree and, like a scene from "A Charlie Brown Christmas," the evergreen emerged from a flury of small hands, gaily decorated.

"It looks great," said Calyx Ruiz, 10, admiring the handiwork. "Art is my favorite subject. I like making things, and this was really fun."

"I'm really excited (Smith) chose our class to do the decorating," said Sydney Diem, 10. "I thought that was really cool."

As he helped place ornaments on the higher branches, Doug Rettbers, a parent attending the event, was all smiles.

"I never got to do anything like this when I was in school," Rettbers said. "I think it looks great."

Laurie Miller, administrative assistant for the Town of Manchester, has enjoyed watching students decorate the tree over the years.

"It's really neat to have the kids come down and decorate it," Miller said. "I think it's neat they try to recycle things."

Manchester's Black Friday celebration on Nov. 23, from 6 to 9 p.m., is hosted by the Manchester Area Merchants Association, and is held throughout the town's business district. The event includes photos with Santa at the Manchester Volunteer Fire Department, a shuttle to carry patrons to stores that stay open late and, of course, the tree lighting at town hall on York Street at 6 p.m.

On Tuesday, after the students had done their work, the town tree was leaning a little bit forward. But it was certainly festive, and ready for its starring role Friday.

"As you leave, look at the tree," Smith called to the students as they lined up to head back to school. "It looks great. Great work."

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