Light Up the Holidays creates day of wishing, celebrating in Dalton


DALTON -- Six-year-old Wyllow Gagliardi approached Santa Claus with a quiet confidence along Depot Street Saturday night. Moving her way through the crowd she looked up at him and then quickly turned to her sister, Serenity, 10, and remembered to ask what she wanted for Christmas.

Turning back to Saint Nick, in front of a crowd of nearly 100 people lining the street, she whispered in his ear

"I would like a make-up kit and my sister wants a snake," Wyllow said seriously.

Santa replied, "Well my dear, just make sure to write me a letter and we'll see what we can do."

Often times requesting a snake for one's sibling can result in being put on the Santa's naughty list, but a ball python is exactly what her sister wants this Christmas, that and duct tape.

"But not together," Serenity said.

With their instructions to write a letter and to leave cookies out for Santa on Christmas Eve, the two girls set out to explore the rest of the 17th annual Light Up the Holidays festivities.

Depot and Main streets in Dalton were lined with hundreds of people listening to live music, watching ballet, enjoying food and hot beverages on Saturday.

Both sides of the streets were also lit with more than 2,700 luminaries -- candles on top of sand inside paper bags.

During the misty morning, members of the Dalton Lion's Club, Ron Lewis, Tim Bevan and Wayne Gallety helped put the luminaries, built by children from the Girls Scouts and Cub Scouts, along the streets.

"This is such a great event," Lewis said. "It really brings all the town's people and businesses together."

Organized by the Dalton Civic Arts Committee, the parade and events were put together with the help of more than 40 local businesses and 30 different volunteer groups.

Matthew Kelly, of Kelly's Package Store, whose family has been at the heart of each of the events, said it's a great tradition that's been passed down through generations now.

"We look forward to this each year," Matthew said. "It's a good way us to give back to the community that's supported us as well as so many other businesses. It provides a perfect amount of holiday cheer."

The event brings groups together that might not normally get to interact with one another, he added.

Bill West, owner of West Automotive and Milltown Tavern, said the event, which kicks off in front of the tavern each year, marks a birthday celebration for his familiy's restaurant.

"We took over the tavern and opened for business in December of 2005," West said. "One of our very first days was the Light Up the Holidays event. So each year we get to celebrate with them and remember what that first year was like and how far we've come."

While he's often fearful of what the weather in early December brings to the Berkshires, West said this year was a "home run" with warmer temperatures and no wind or rain.

"This is such a great event, especially for the kids and with weather like this it's no wonder there's so many people out," he said.

Paul Nichols felt the same way.

After moving to Dalton roughly four years ago and starting Grey Goose Farm, he said the residents have shown him and his family so much kindness he wanted to repay them, so this year he volunteered to drive Santa and his helper elves around on a float pulled by one of his favorite tractors.

"This is a great community and this festival shows it," he said. "I'm already excited for next year."

To reach Josh Stilts:,
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On Twitter: @JoshStilts


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