WinterFest: ‘Wow! What a night!’ in words and pictures

Editor’s note: This press release and the pictures were provided by Pelham Together and the Pelham Chamber of Commerce.

Wow! What a night! Pelham Together and the Pelham Chamber of Commerce sponsored WinterFest on Saturday, January 9th, and the community responded with incredible enthusiasm and generosity to create a magical evening that brought everyone together, while keeping us safely apart. Dozens of musicians set up in front of homes with inviting lights, heaters, and around fire pits; local businesses and families offered individually packaged sweets and warm drinks, and many families kept up their holiday lights. We are grateful to all who participated in any way (including enjoying!), for creating a spirit of hope and community to start the new year!

One performer captured it perfectly.  Scott Bardolf, lead vocalist and rhythm guitar player of the band Half Step (a Grateful Dead Tribute band), said “With all the negativity in this country right now, WinterFest was the perfect avenue to put it all aside and celebrate the magic of live music, our community and life in general. The responses I have received from my neighbors, some as far as 5 blocks away who heard the music and came to find it, has been really heartwarming. For 90 minutes we were all just neighbors, united in the universal language of music.”

Our talented musicians were truly the highlight of the night, showcasing performances from individual singers and guitarists, to bands and young pianists. Every musician brought their A-game, and the variety of talent brought an energy that we have missed for the past 10 months.  While everyone wore masks and maintained distance, you could still feel the smiles and a sense of togetherness.  As one musician, Warren Banholzer, put it, “For myself, and other musicians in Pelham, it was great to be able to play in front of a live and appreciative crowd for the first time in nearly a year.”

Grace Kiamie, musician and 8th grader, said, “After nearly a year of not performing, it felt so wonderful to have a real live audience and to feel the energy and excitement of the people enjoying WinterFest.”

Given the timing, Pelham graduates, home from college, were also able to participate.  Stephen Tahbaz, Pelham class of ‘20, shared, “As a musician, it was awesome to be able to get out and jam with my buds again. On top of that, I was able to see lots of old friends, parents, and teachers in a safe environment. I hope that WinterFest becomes an annual trademark in Pelham!”  And even the youngest musicians among us had a moment in the spotlight.  Lauren Dunkelberger, owner of Premier Music Studio, said “I felt WinterFest was an amazing opportunity for my staff and students enrolled in the studio to showcase their talents in a socially-distanced and responsible way; especially since my studio has been operating 100% virtually since March 2020.  It was a refreshing change of pace for all, and I am thrilled that we could be a part of an event that could truly bring us together, apart.”

Business was booming at Cantina Lobos, Depot Dave and Double Rainbow, all of whom offered customer favorites and to-go options. Depot Dave, in particular, took this opportunity to further extend his support for his Feed The Homeless Challenge “Not only was I excited to participate in WinterFest, but I was thrilled that together with Pelham Chamber of Commerce we could spread the holiday cheer to those who really need it right now. We are sending over 100 meals to Hope’s Kitchen to match the wonderful support we received from the Pelham community this past weekend,” said Depot Dave Catering.

DeCicco’s provided  the sensation of the season — hot chocolate bombs; Pelham newcomer, Flour Power, gave out their wonderful brownies, and The Picture House sold concessions outside the theater. Chamber President Cristina Chianese commented, “WinterFest was not only a magical night in town but meaningful to our small businesses that need all the support they can get.”

That is especially true for a business just starting out.  Owners of Flour Power, Miranda Bucciero & Lauren Gibaldi, expressed, “As a new business in Pelham, we try to be involved in as many community events as possible, not only to help introduce people to our brand but also to make their lives a little bit sweeter. We really enjoy being able to give back to a community that has been so welcoming and supportive of our new business venture!”

WinterFest was created by a group of Pelham Together volunteers who are part of the Pelham Together Mental Health Committee.  The group wanted to keep the hope and joy of the holiday season alive as a way to fight our “pandemic fatigue.” Laura Caruso, Pelham Together Executive Director, explained, “We’re concerned about people’s mental health as the pandemic continues. We know that connection and having things to look forward to all promote better mental health.  We thought this event offered something for everyone to get excited about and a perfect way to be there for one another.”