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‘It’s really beautiful.’ Newton’s first WinterFEST brings music, shopping, ice sculptures, and cheer

The 5-foot polar bear waits in the “perfect weather,” snowy and cold, for detailing, Images in Ice owner Craig McConnell said.

Newton Community Pride debuted a two-day WinterFEST this month, with a soup social at Hyde Community Center, a nature walk at Cold Spring Park and a winter market at Newton Centre Green, offering residents pop-up shops, ice sculptures and live entertainment.

Gloria Gavris, chair of Newton Community Pride, said that each of the events over the weekend of Feb. 12 and 13 were designed to build community, bringing neighbors together during a socially sparse winter.

“We thought ‘Let’s bring some fun and excitement to our winter season by hosting WinterFEST in three locations across the city,’” Gavris said beforehand.

Gavris said the event was important to bring the community together during the pandemic.


“It definitely takes a village, as we say in Newton, to put the event together,” Gavris said. “But we’re very grateful for the partnerships that we’ve developed.”

WinterFEST began with the soup social at Hyde Center playground in the Newton Highlands Saturday, Feb. 12. The outdoor event also featured ice cream and live music by The Porch Rockers, a band of Newton residents, and Newton North High School’s Melocotones, an acapella group.

Seven local vendors and their customers braved the snowy weather to participate in a series of pop up markets that began during the pandemic, said Christopher Osborn, owner of Better Life Food. Thalia Lauzon

Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller was on hand alongside Newton City Council members who ladled out soup to the patrons stretched down the sidewalk of Lincoln Street.

“You can see how hungry people are to be together to enjoy some soup and some music,” Fuller said. “What you see is joy and happiness, music and dance.”

WinterFEST garnered over 20 community sponsors, including the Village Bank.

“This is our home base,” said Susan Paley, vice president of Community Relations for the Village Bank. “We’re very much attached to this community, and we try to make sure we’re financially supporting a lot of fabulous, not just events, but ways that are going to build community and make us stronger together.”


On Sunday, Feb. 13, the second day of WinterFEST opened at Cold Spring Park for a 1.5 mile educational winter walk with the Newton Conservators about plants and animals in the increasingly cold and snowy weather, according to Newton Community Pride’s WinterFEST webpage.

“I think it’s beautiful that it’s snowing for WinterFEST,” said Judy Shoobe, an independent consultant for Scout&Cellar, Clean-Crafted Wine. “It’s fun to talk to people” and schedule tastings, she said.

WinterFEST featured three premade winter-inspired ice sculptures by Images in Ice Feb. 13.Thalia Lauzon

Shoobe set up a pop-up stand next to other local businesses, like Better Life Food, at WinterFEST’s final destination in Newton Centre, the Winter Pop Market. The third event featured local goods, costumed characters and giant puppets, games, as well as performances from improvisational dance group Winter Wish Trio and Boston College’s The Acoustics, an a capella group.

Better Life Food owner Christopher Osborn said switching to doing pop-up markets from their catering business during the pandemic has helped keep their local business alive.

“I think one thing that’s beautiful that’s come out of the whole pandemic is people are really thinking local, and they really want to support local,” Osborn said. “It’s really beautiful.”

Osborn had two tents –– savory and sweet –– and partnered with All Over Newton’s LoveFEST, a one-stop shop for ordering local Valentine’s Day gifts online for delivery or pick up at WinterFEST.

Lauren Berman, owner of All Over Newton, said she strives to help local businesses with their marketing and visibility through “meaningful events that work for Newton small businesses.”


WinterFEST and the Winter Pop Market stands closed up shop on Feb. 13.

“We feel that a really healthy, outdoors, socially-distanced, safe environment, enjoying the winter weather and enjoying the entertainment was really something that we wanted to offer the community this year,” Gavris said.

Thalia Lauzon and Charles Moore can be reached at

Gloria Gavris, chair of Newton Community Pride, leads the Winter Pop Market set up.Thalia Lauzon
Christopher Osborn, owner of Better Life Food, presents the “savory” table full of frozen soups, empanadas and treats.Thalia Lauzon
Chef Rory Forde (left) keeps warm with a patron during the constant midday snowfall.Thalia Lauzon