Winterfest Celebrates Community

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Some of the hardy souls who came out to participate in 2017 Winterfest were Garden City Bird Sanctuary President John. W. Cronin (third from right) and Legislator Laura Schaefer (red jacket). (Photo by Dave Gil de Rubio)
By John W. Cronin

On Saturday, Jan. 13, the board of directors of the Garden City Bird Sanctuary (GCBS) invites everyone to join us for our annual Winterfest celebration. What is Winterfest? As I’ve stated in previous years, it is a holiday we on the GCBS Board of Directors began in 2009 to honor all our members and supporters. It is full of meaningful ceremonies and traditions which reflect the three virtues that any community needs to survive: volunteerism, environmental stewardship and hope.

At Winterfest, we seek to engender a sense of belonging, safety and comfort, which will lead us to be more willing to act with hospitality and generosity in our personal lives; it is something that gets paid forward with good effects that spiral outward into the whole world. There are no strangers who come to help at the GCBS, only friends we haven’t met.

The GCBS began as a nine-acre storm water basin and was transformed into a beautiful Bird Sanctuary and Nature Preserve that can be enjoyed by generations to come. It’s amazing what we can accomplish together. If you don’t think one person can make a change for the better, join the rest of us who banded together to contribute our talents and make a difference together as a unified “one.”

Winterfest begins at 4 p.m. as twilight approaches. As our supporters file in, there is warm cocoa to drink as we fill the birdfeeders and put up some decorations for our fine feathered friends. About 4:30 p.m., we have a poem recitation around our newly planted trees. Then we culminate the event with our candle-lighting ceremony in which we have the Great Telling. Just as some Native Americans have a ceremony that describes the history of their tribe, the directors tell the story of the GCBS and Winterfest itself. Each director tells a part of the story. During the ceremony we will publicly honor two of our outstanding helpers and then remember with gratitude both the persons who dedicated trees in 2015 for someone special (either in honor or in memoriam) and those people for whom they were planted.

At Winterfest we also remember the past year’s accomplishments and dream of the ones to come in 2017. Symbolism is an integral part of any tradition because it links tangible objects and ritual to the intangible ideals, emotions and ideas we wish to hold on to and pass along. We can’t see love, but we all realize it through the giving of the red roses and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates on St. Valentine’s Day. During the Great Telling you will learn why we start at dusk, have our holiday in January, use green candles, express the three characteristics of Winterfest in the Latin language and much, much more. Finally, you will hear the ultimate message of hope that we pass on at Winterfest which is…all winters must come to an end. Not just seasonal winters, but the “winters” of social problems, economic problems, relationship problems, etc. The great religions of the world tell us even the winter of death itself will give way to a spring of new life.

So come on down Jan. 13, to the GCBS and discover Winterfest: a modern holiday celebrating timeless ideals which make communities work. Won’t you become part of our community? The GCBS is opposite 181 Tanners Pond Rd. The gates open at 3:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the general public. It ends at approximately 5 p.m. Hope to see you there.
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—John W. Cronin is president of the
Garden City Bird Sanctuary, Inc.

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