Enchanted Forest brings holiday tidings

Kimley Thackray, dressed in her finest fairy wings, offers up a smile at Clara’s Tea as part of the Junior League of Greenwich’s annual Enchanted Forest. Below, the gingerbread house competition continued to be one of the most colorful, and delicious, parts of the event. –John Ferris Robben

Kimley Thackray, dressed in her finest fairy wings, offers up a smile at Clara’s Tea as part of the Junior League of Greenwich’s annual Enchanted Forest. Below, the gingerbread house competition continued to be one of the most colorful, and delicious, parts of the event. –John Ferris Robben

The holiday season is just around the corner, and the Junior League of Greenwich helped usher in the season’s lovely spirit with its annual Enchanted Forest fund-raiser.

The halls of the Hyatt Regency in Old Greenwich were transformed into a complete holiday bazaar, offering special performances, unique vendors and fun activities for the estimated 7,000 attendees. Organized by event co-chairs Kathryn Walker and Kay Sterling, the Enchanted Forest brings together dozens of Junior League volunteers to deliver one of the season’s premier events.

There truly is something for everyone during the “enchanted” weekend, with the proceeds going toward the nonprofit organization’s  community initiatives.

Friday night’s Jingle Mingle Holiday Boutique kicked off the event, opening the doors to a selection of more than 50 vendors. Those looking to get an early start on their holiday shopping were certainly not disappointed, as an array of uniquely crafted gifts filled the boutique areas of the floor.

Beginning on Saturday, guests were treated to live entertainment, with more than a dozen performance groups gracing the stage. Among the acts were the Allegra Dance Studio, Greenwich Ballet Academy, Greenwich Chorale Society, Greenwich Dance Studio and performers from the Convent of the Sacred Heart and Greenwich Country Day School.

“It’s very exciting for us. We work really hard, we have a really big team and we spend at least six months planning. … It’s our 38th annual event,” Ms. Sterling said. “When we get to see it finally come together, and see all the beautiful trees and the Gingerbread Village, it’s very exciting for us. The best part is seeing all the kids and their reactions, and getting to share it with the community.”

The Gingerbread Village and Forest of Trees are Enchanted Forest hallmarks, allowing supporters to express themselves by donating a personally designed holiday tree or gingerbread house for auction. Entries varied from expansive tributes to the new children’s classic Frozen to replicas of local landmarks like the Greenwich Land Trust. Visitors bid for a chance to take their favorites home, including a tree celebrating the retirement of Derek Jeter and a towering gingerbread Jeep working its way out of the mud.

A large portion of the Enchanted Forest was dedicated to young visitors, featuring a number of activities to keep them engaged and excited. The Children’s Giving Shop gave children an opportunity to shop for their loved ones without parental supervision. With the help of Junior League volunteers, they were able to pick out gifts and have them wrapped on-site, with their parents none the wiser.

The Gingerbread Workshop gave kids the chance to flex their artistic abilities, decorating their candy constructions with a bevy of sweet treats provided by volunteers. Parents concerned about a potential sugar rush were able to send their young ones to an indoor playroom complete with bounce castles to work off their extra energy. Finally, families lined up for pictures with Santa Claus taken by photographer Chris Herder.

For those interested in a more intimate experience, the Enchanted Forest also featured Santa’s Breakfast and Clara’s Tea, a pair of private meals. Families at Santa’s Breakfast enjoyed a special meet-and-greet with St. Nick himself, while those sharing afternoon tea were entertained by a dance from Clara, the lead of The Nutcracker, performed by a special visitor from the Connecticut Ballet. Saturday night also brought on the Jingle Bell Bash, a cocktail reception featuring a choice selection of hors d’oeuvres, silent auction and music by The Short Bus.

Among the weekend’s vendors was Camille Worrell of Chasse P’tit Loup, a private jewelry vendor. Though it was her first time setting up shop at the Enchanted Forest, Ms. Worrell found her time at the event to be successful.

“It’s been an excellent show, they’ve got a great variety of different vendors. It’s been very good for business for me, getting my product out and letting people know about the jewelry,” she said. “I’m glad I participated this year, it’s been fun.”

New York City-based chocolatier Xocolatti made its way to the Enchanted Forest as well, having earned a number of awards and provided its slates to the U.S. Department of State luncheon last month. Founder Shaineal Shah and Namrata Shah represented their business in earnest in the boutique section, offering gift sets and free samples for guests. Though the shop is based in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood, the chocolate is produced in nearby Port Chester, N.Y., and available for order at Xocolatti.com.

Once again the Enchanted Forest was a success, bringing holiday spirit to the community and benefiting the continued work of the Junior League of Greenwich. President-elect Alessandra Long was excited to see the results of the weekend.

“We are thrilled with the success of the 38th annual Junior League Enchanted Forest this weekend,” Ms. Long said. “All the proceeds will benefit the many community projects of the Junior League of Greenwich to further our mission as an organization, such as the Greenwich Pool and Byram Park Project, the Positively Me and Positively More programs, our numerous Done in a Day programs, the Greenwich Youth Film Festival, as well as our annual Kids in the Kitchen Fit and Fun Fest. It was fabulous to see all the children and families attend an event where there is something for everyone.”

The league isn’t finished with its efforts for this year; applicants are still being sought for the 2014-15 Community Grant Award, which could bring up to $5,000 to a local community organization. The applications are due Dec. 5, with the award to be presented next spring. For more information on the Community Grant Award and the rest of the Junior League’s initiatives, visit Jlgreenwich.org.

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