'It's going to be bright': Barrington High students putting on Winter Wonderfest this weekend
Zoos, shopping malls, parks, county fairgrounds -- people can choose among many drive-through suburban holiday displays this year, but the one organized by Barrington High School is a unique and creative feat.
About 250 students and 100 staff members took part in the production of Winter Wonderfest, which will feature live student performances and a whole lot of holiday lights Friday through Sunday in the parking lot of the high school.
Planning started in early September within the fine, visual and performing arts department and grew to include more than 40 student teams, clubs and groups, as well as the other schools within Barrington Area Unit District 220.
"Normally in winter we do a lot of holiday concerts and things like that. We were just trying to creatively problem-solve," said Brigid Tileston, the district's K-12 director of fine, visual and performing arts. "With the whole COVID situation, it's important to creatively find ways to express our school spirit and express our support for each other through inclusive and safe events like this one."
Vehicles will follow a course around the high school decked out with two lights shows -- one synchronized to a holiday song on the radio -- a video projection of a holiday episode from BHS-TV, dozens of small holiday trees and a nearly 20-foot tree with about 2,000 lights.
"It's going to be bright," said Amy Jessup-Tilford, auditorium manager and technical director for the high school.
Most students are learning virtually in District 220, with small groups allowed in school buildings for in-person classes and activities. The event will showcase the talents of technical theater students who normally work behind the scenes.
"They tend to be the quieter kids in the school," Jessup-Tilford said. "They don't always like to be in the forefront, but it is a nice opportunity to be able to do something for their student body and their community. Something they can be proud of and excited about."
Senior Nat Dixon, 17, spent weeks building and painting a sleigh for Santa (who'll be at the event, of course) and large holiday-themed "snow globes" decorated with lights.
"Because of so much stuff being canceled because of COVID and everything, we had to think of a new event to put on. Not just to get some money for the department, but also to get some holiday cheer, because everyone's been stuck inside," Nat said. "We are all very excited about this. We have been working on this for so long, we have all put in so much effort. ... It feels really, really rewarding to see it all come together."
Students will perform in 30-minute slots on five stages, with soloists, string quartets and various other groups doing tunes. Sophomore Ella Beaubien, 15, will be there on two nights to perform with the Premium Blend a cappella group and the Madrigals group.
"It's really special, especially during these times, because nobody gets to really see each other right now. The fact that we're able to do this in a really safe way, and the tech students still being able to contribute and everybody being able to showcase their talents ... it's going to be really special for the holidays," Ella said.
Ella's mother, Mary Beaubien, a board member of the BHS Fine Arts Boosters, said it hasn't been easy to spread word about the show because restaurants' billboards are not accessible with the indoor dining ban. The reaction of those who find out, however, is always enthusiastic, she said.
"It's a coming together of not just fine arts, but the tech kids that don't really get recognition," she said. "For me, it's a really creative way for all of this community to come together."
Tickets are $25 each at app.arts-people.com/index.php? ticketing=d220. Proceeds will cover expenses such as equipment rental, with the remainder going to the fine arts department for future events.
The entrance will be off Hart Road, where the SweetSpot store will offer packaged treats and hot chocolate. People are invited to bring donations of canned food and winter coats that will go to local nonprofits.