TREE­HUG­GERS Hol­i­daySea MYS­TIC AQUAR­IUM GETS INTO THE HOL­I­DAY SPIRIT WITH of Trees

The Day - Sound & Country - - Mystic Aquarium’s Sea Of Trees - By SU­SAN BAN­NING Day Staff Writer

WWhen you think about the hol­i­days in Mys­tic, a va­ri­ety of im­ages may dance be­fore your eyes: the green­ery of down­town, com­mu­nity carol­ing at Mys­tic Sea­port, a lighted boat pa­rade. But one of the stal­warts of the town, Mys­tic Aquar­ium, might not be part of the pic­ture.

How­ever, the spirit doesn’t skip the bel­u­gas, pen­guins and sea lions. On the con­trary, their home is decked out to the max thanks to a creative project that came out of the mar­ket­ing depart­ment four years ago.

Wel­come to the Hol­i­day Sea of Trees, an event that runs from Nov. 28 through Jan. 2. More than 20 Christ­mas trees will be on dis­play through­out the main floor of the aquar­ium dur­ing this time, an es­pe­cially vi­brant sight re­flect­ing the lights from the glass of the in­side ex­hibits.

“We think it’s a great chance to dec­o­rate the aquar­ium and en­hance the fla­vor of the hol­i­days,” says Mys­tic Aquar­ium mar­ket­ing co­or­di­na­tor Cas­san­dra Meyer-Ogren.

This is not just an in­side job; the aquar­ium re­lies on other or­ga­ni­za­tions to put their cre­ativ­ity to work to dec­o­rate the trees. Past years have seen con­tri­bu­tions from Mys­tic Sea­port, Deni­son Pe­quot­se­pos Na­ture Cen­ter, Adam’s Gar­den of Eden, the Greater Mys­tic Cham­ber of Com­merce, the Chil­dren’s Mu­seum of South­east­ern Con­necti­cut and a joint tree put to­gether by lo­cal bed and break­fasts. “It is a great col­lab­o­ra­tive with all of th­ese or­ga­ni­za­tions, and it raises aware­ness of them with our vis­i­tors,” Meyer-Ogren says.

The trees fea­ture themes that are as­so­ci­ated with each or­ga­ni­za­tion, such as a nau­ti­cal tree for Mys­tic Sea­port, feathers and nests from DPNC and glass or­na­ments fea­tur­ing pho­tos of the bed and break­fasts adorn­ing that group’s tree.

When or­ga­ni­za­tions pro­mote spe­cial events such as this, part of the rea­son is usu­ally to move the turn­stiles a few more times than usual. This isn’t Mys­tic Aquar­ium’s mo­ti­va­tion dur­ing a part of the year that is tra­di­tion­ally busy any­how: Over the time pe­riod of Hol­i­day Sea of Trees, as many as 30-35,000 peo­ple come through the gate.

“This event just en­hances the vis­i­tor ex­pe­ri­ence,” Meyer-Ogren says. “It’s my fa­vorite time of year, so I re­ally en­joy help­ing to put it to­gether.… it to­tally changes the look of the main floor. It’s so nice to have the ex­tra sparkle from the dec­o­ra­tions and the lights.”

Many vis­i­tors are not aware the exhibit is go­ing on when they make their aquar­ium trip, which Meyer-Ogren says only adds to the fun.

“It’s great to see the kids and the par­ents racing from tree to tree,” she says. “(The event) is still in the early stages, so it’s new to a lot of peo­ple.”

The trees are not real, due to fire code, but ar­ti­fi­cial ones look so real th­ese days that Meyer-Ogren says it’s hard to spot the dif­fer­ence.

“We try to get them as au­then­tic as can be,” she says. “We are looking into get­ting a big live tree for the open area past the en­try and be­fore the ex­hibits.”

Do the an­i­mals no­tice the fes­tiv­i­ties go­ing on around them? Hard to say, but Meyer-Ogren doesn’t think so.

“There are trees around their ex­hibits, but I don’t think they have no­ticed them yet,” she says. “Some­thing like Sea Scare (the Hal­loween­time event at Mys­tic Aquar­ium), when things are ac­tu­ally in their tanks… that, they no­tice.”

TOP, THE LIGHTS OF THE TREES MAKE THE AQUAR­IUM EX­HIBITS MORE STRIK­ING. BE­LOW, HAND­MADE OR­NA­MENTS ADD CHARM TO A TREE. PHO­TOS COUR­TESY OF MYS­TIC AQUAR­IUM.

THE TREE GIVES SOME PER­SPEC­TIVE TO THE SIZE OF TH­ESE CHOM­PERS. PHOTO COUR­TESY OF MYS­TIC AQUAR­IUM.

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