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Parati ‘decks the halls’ & more

  • Recorder/Diane Broncaccio<br/><br/>Nan Parati, in her workshop above Elmer's, glues glitter curliques onto plastic stars for Amherst's holiday decorations.

    Recorder/Diane Broncaccio

    Nan Parati, in her workshop above Elmer's, glues glitter curliques onto plastic stars for Amherst's holiday decorations.

  • Bill Viera of Ashfield puts up the garland and 'spiders' at Main and Federal Streets on Monday.  Recorder/Paul Franz

    Bill Viera of Ashfield puts up the garland and 'spiders' at Main and Federal Streets on Monday. Recorder/Paul Franz

  • Nan Parati oraganizes donor stars as she sits on the floor next to the 'spiders' that make up her holiday lamp post decorations that make Greenfield look festive.  Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>

    Nan Parati oraganizes donor stars as she sits on the floor next to the 'spiders' that make up her holiday lamp post decorations that make Greenfield look festive. Recorder/Paul Franz

  • Nan Parati oraganizes donor stars as she sits on the floor next to the 'spiders' that make up her holiday lamp post decorations that make Greenfield look festive.  Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>

    Nan Parati oraganizes donor stars as she sits on the floor next to the 'spiders' that make up her holiday lamp post decorations that make Greenfield look festive. Recorder/Paul Franz

  • Bill Viera of Ashfield puts up the garland and 'spiders' at Main and Federal Streets on Monday.  Recorder/Paul Franz

    Bill Viera of Ashfield puts up the garland and 'spiders' at Main and Federal Streets on Monday. Recorder/Paul Franz

  • Recorder/Diane Broncaccio<br/><br/>Nan Parati, in her workshop above Elmer's, glues glitter curliques onto plastic stars for Amherst's holiday decorations.
  • Bill Viera of Ashfield puts up the garland and 'spiders' at Main and Federal Streets on Monday.  Recorder/Paul Franz
  • Nan Parati oraganizes donor stars as she sits on the floor next to the 'spiders' that make up her holiday lamp post decorations that make Greenfield look festive.  Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>
  • Nan Parati oraganizes donor stars as she sits on the floor next to the 'spiders' that make up her holiday lamp post decorations that make Greenfield look festive.  Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>
  • Bill Viera of Ashfield puts up the garland and 'spiders' at Main and Federal Streets on Monday.  Recorder/Paul Franz

GREENFIELD — “It takes a village to make Christmas,” says Nan Parati of Ashfield, and a glimpse into her “Santa’s workshop” studio upstairs from Elmer’s store and restaurant seems to bear this out.

A few weeks before Thanksgiving, it was filled with sawhorse tables, with workers drilling screw holes into Christmas decoration components, while Parati glue-gunned glitter onto amber pieces of acetate destined to become holiday “stars” shining from Amherst lamp-posts for the holidays.

Parati and her team of helpers — mostly staff and regular customers from Elmer’s — have been dressing up downtown Greenfield for the past two years. But this year, they’re adding streams of energy-saving LED (light-emitting diode) lights to the crowns of about one-third of Greenfield’s garland-wound lampposts.

Last year, Parati got a call from Amherst, asking where the Greenfield decorations came from. When she said she made them, they told her, “come and see us.”

And this year, Brattleboro called — late in the year, to see if she would help decorate their downtown. Two years ago, fire ravaged the 140-year old Brooks House, leaving a big hole in the town center. With a $23 million restoration of the historic landmark under way, Parati was commissioned to create a light display on the construction scaffolding of that massive hotel building.

Parati moved from New Orleans to Ashfield in 2005, not only revitalizing the once-vacant Elmer’s store but putting her design savvy to use. She continues to be the art director of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and she has also designed signs, T-shirts and other artwork for Greenfield’s Green River Festival.

“In New Orleans, I had a design studio,” she said, between her work glittering stars. “We built things for movies. I did a lot of rock ‘n roll shows, conventions — anything where someone wanted big, fabulous art installations, we would design stuff. We worked for the NFL, for the Super Bowl, and I used to do some of the Christmas decorations from the French Quarter in New Orleans.”

“About three years ago, I was looking at the Christmas decorations in Greenfield and, you know, you always feel you could do something bigger and better than what was done. So I made a proposal to the GBA (Greenfield Business Association), and they accepted the proposal.”

Along Main Street, Greenfield’s lampposts are wound with garlands and mini-lights, and crowned by a jester’s hat and a fountain-like “spray” of prongs tipped with stars.

“What I wanted to go for was a festive holiday,” says Parati. “Colorful. Big, bright and happy — that’s my whole thing. That’s what we did, with the idea of adding on to it, later. Another important thing to me is that (the decorations) look good in the daytime. Most holiday decor that you see in the daytime looks kind of sad — like it’s just living for nighttime. Another reason for the jester hats,” she adds, “was to give more life and color to them in the day time.”

“There are some people who feel they aren’t Christmassy enough, but there’s got to be compromise. We try to make decorations that are festive and happy — that make you want to be outside. We do jubilant decorations.”

In early October, the emergence of a single holiday lamppost at the intersection of Hope and Olive streets sparked some consternation that Greenfield was starting its Christmas season much too soon. But that decorated lamppost was just done to test the components to be used for the Main Street decorations, and to show prospective sponsors what the holiday lampposts will look like.

In Greenfield, all the Christmas decorations are done with private donations and sponsorship of the decorated lampposts. Parati said businesses adopt the poles, and their names appear on them. Pole sponsorship, she said, has increased this year.

Parati said she starts thinking about new decorating ideas in January, then starts actively working on them by summer. She said the restaurant staff enjoy helping with the projects, and she has gotten help from local residents when it comes to getting brackets for the light poles, or technical assistance. When she needs advice from an electrician, for instance, Parati calls up a local electrician and tells him, “I need you to come in (to Elmer’s) for dinner.”

“So, I’ll give him dinner and I can ask a certain number of questions,” she said.

Amherst’s decorations were installed by Paratti’s crew the week of Nov. 18 and Greenfield’s were installed this week.

When asked what was the difference between doing holiday decorations for Greenfield and doing them for New Orleans, Parati said New Orleans has more equipment for putting up displays. “In New Orleans, it was: “Here’s what we want. Can you make that happen?”

“In Greenfield, it’s a collaborative thing,” she said. “We work on it together. This year, they really wanted to go for the lights. It’s an ongoing, interactive process, because we want to keep it fresh and interesting. That’s the difference between this and buying something out of a catalog, or just hiring some company that brings in some stock stuff. We actually create this with Greenfield in mind.”

Greenfield Business Association Coordinator Caitlin von Schmidt, said that Parati has been doing Greenfield’s Christmas decorations before she joined the GBA, “but I was a big fan as a civilian.”

“It’s a great combination of cost-effectiveness and totally unique and wonderful decorations,” said von Schmidt. “I think it’s a win-win. Clearly, we’re not alone, because Amherst and Brattleboro have hired her.”

Next year, another 30 of Greenfield’s 90 decorated lampposts will get LED light streamers. Parati said she plans to add a little more to each town’s displays with each Christmas season.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: dbroncaccio@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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