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