Stars in the Mad River Valley
From Moretown to Warren, a 20-mile stretch of the winding road in darkest winter is studded with brightly lit stars of all shapes and sizes. The stars stand on residential lawns and hang from the front of shops & businesses. Standing anywhere from 3 to 15 feet in height, the stars are hand made by residents and displayed as a way to participate in an annual event here, the Festival of the Lights, which culminates in a prize drawing at Sugarbush that awards cash prizes of up to $1,000. The twist is that the cash prize will be donated to the non-profit of the winner’s choice.
The Festival of the Lights has been running since 2006. A year after Irene, Bridget LaMell, who owns Reign Vermont, wanted to draw attention to her shop which sits a bit back and closer to the river than the other historic buildings surrounding the covered bridge in in Historic Waitsfield Village. So she created up a few simple stars, made out of tree saplings, and wound Christmas lights around them. People loved it—the grouping of stars created a whimsical tableau which charmed people driving by on Route 100.
The stars were so attractive that neighboring residents and businessowners got together in late fall the next year to create a multitude of stars, using found materials and pooling their money to buy the lights. That year, 2014, the shops at Historic Waitsfield Village were ablaze with stars. It set Historic Waitsfield Village apart, created a theme, and won that year’s best decoration of a business prize at the Festival. It really takes the darkness out these early nights, and it’s fun to drive with the kids and ask them to count how many they can find.
The contest is open to everyone, and the number of people who have joined in by adding a star or two to their yard is impressive. By the time the Festival of Lights rolled around in early December 2015, there were more than 500 individual stars lighting up the routes & byways of the Mad River Valley. It’s actually more unusual to see a house that doesn’t have a star.
The trail of stars is a really beautiful, visual way to unite the communities of the Mad River Valley. It’s within reach of most residents, and free to enjoy for everyone. Who knows how many stars will be displayed in 2016? It is expected that most people will leave their stars out until at least the middle to end of January, and many will be lighting your way all winter.
Our thanks to June Anderson for compiling this information.