Newton families and community leaders gathered at the Hyde Community Center on Saturday for live music, hot soup, and appearances from a few special, costumed guests.
Amid a growing crowd of people, the Newton Community Pride Moose, a giant puppet, and Olaf—the lovable snowman from Disney’s Frozen—strolled across the Hyde Center’s lawn on the unseasonably warm evening. Beneath the yellow lights of the community center, Olaf and the moose could be seen rocking back and forth to the sound of The Porch Rockers, whose musicians were warming up for a performance later that night.
“I really hope this guy doesn’t fall down tonight,” said Ben Ditch, an attendee, pointing to Olaf. “He looks very white right now.”
The Hyde Center’s annual soup social, held outdoors for the first time in its roughly three decades of existence, partnered with Newton Community Pride (NCP) to kick off its inaugural WinterFEST, a series of family-friendly events held over the weekend. The event featured performances from The Porch Rockers and Newton North High School’s a cappella group, the Melocotones.
The social offered Newton attendees free hot chocolate, cookies, a selfie station, and soup donated by local restaurants, according to Blair Sullivan, executive director of NCP.
“So we saw other communities doing it and we were like, ‘Why can’t we do this? Let’s do something,’” Sullivan said. “You know, it’s still COVID going on. I want to do something for the community outside where it’s safe and bring everyone together for a family-friendly, really fun time.”
NCP’s mission is to build community through arts and culture events, according to Gloria Gavris, chair of NCP’s board of directors. Gavris said the soup social was an opportunity to bring neighbors, friends, and residents together.
“Oh my god, we got several hundred people here tonight,” she said. “This is fantastic. We always offer free programming, so you never really know how many people are gonna show up.”
The attendees lined up on Lincoln Street to receive soup from city councilors. Marc Laredo, councilor-at-large for Ward 7, said he was thankful for the opportunity to spend time with his colleagues.
“We have not been meeting in person for almost two years now, and so we rarely get a chance to see each other in person,” said Laredo, whose ward includes Boston College’s main campus. “Listen, that’s nice in and of itself. Part of being a city councilor [is] you get out here to say hello and you shake hands.”
Tarik Lucas, councilor-at-large for Ward 2, which encompasses BC’s Newton Campus, echoed Laredo’s sentiments.
“It’s a wonderful event,” Lucas said. “It’s great to volunteer and help out and, you know, just meet the people here in Newton.”
Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller praised the event for maintaining a safe environment where attendees could remain outdoors, wearing or foregoing masks at their discretion.
“It is just so wonderful to have everybody gathering,” Fuller, who was sporting a snowflake headband, said. “The weather helped tonight. And you can tell how many people are hungry to be together, to see each other, to enjoy a bite to eat, and sing along to some great music.”
Ali Erol, a Newton resident and an assistant professor of the practice in BC’s communication department, visited the soup social with his family and neighbors. The outdoor event was a great way to spend the mild-weathered evening, according to Erol.
“I volunteer, so I care about what the city does,” he said.
Beyond supporting the community, Erol said that he was most looking forward to the live musicians, who he had heard warming up with songs from Natalie Imbruglia and Lenny Kravitz, as well as the free food offerings.
Village Bank has been a primary sponsor of NCP events for many years, according to Susan Paley, vice president of community relations at the bank. Particularly after the last couple of years, people are “itching” to be back at community events, she said.
“We were so excited when we drove up and we saw that we couldn’t find a parking space,” Paley said.
Resident Doug Cornelius, who serves on the Newton Historical Commission, wore the Newton Community Pride Moose suit for the event. His daughter, he said, was dressed as the giant puppet.
Though he said working as the moose is enjoyable, Cornelius said he got a varied reaction from younger Newton residents.
“Some like me. Some are scared of me,” he said. “Kind of like my own kids.”
When asked why he chose to be the moose for the night’s event, Cornelius’ answer was simple.
“I was too tall to be Olaf,” he said.
Images by Megan Kelly / Heights Editor