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Angels Among Us

Highfield Hall & Gardens presents “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

The first year, of the third decade, of the 21st century, will certainly own its place in history. Any soothsayer’s prediction of what lay ahead, was blown apart by a worldwide pandemic that altered the behavior and traditions of the human race. As the calendar marches forward, undeterred, inevitably a season of joy and celebration will be at the core of everyone’s expectation. How do we celebrate this year? How do we balance our need for distance with our desire to come together? While many holiday events across the region have been cancelled or rescheduled for a future time, the creative and thoughtful individuals at Falmouth’s Highfield Hall & Gardens have committed to presenting their annual “Holidays at Highfield.”

This year, transformation of the historic home will be accomplished by Rita Pacheco who has transformed the elegant former 19th century home of the Beebe family for the past two years into a magical and whimsical exploration of what design looks like when one not only thinks outside of the box, but eschews the box altogether. Pacheco has a reputation for creatively interpreting spaces. Whether it is an intimate outdoor gathering where guests dine under the stars and under the canopies of majestic trees nestled into a crook of a garden, or a grass checkerboard courtyard that provides the perfect backdrop to an alfresco afternoon tea, Pacheco embraces the natural bounty that surrounds us on the Cape. 

A pro at blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor spaces, she can always be relied upon to surprise guests and visitors with her unexpected use of natural elements that have been repurposed to meet traditional celebrations. Case in point, 2018’s debut of design presented a sumptuous holiday party set in a Sea Captain’s home from an era long ago. And last year’s theme brought the magic indoors of Patrick Dougherty’s Stickwork sculpture, “A Passing Fancy” that grounds the property’s magnificent gardens. Pacheco transformed the manor into a celebration of the season against a natural backdrop for Highfield’s holiday celebration. Similar to the fantasy of the C. S. Lewis’ Kingdom of Narnia, with woodland creatures and delights next to elegant elements like a polished silver tea service and fine linens, the juxtaposition of the natural world in a refined environment elicits awe and wonder from visitors spanning multiple generations. 

Pacheco’s design themes complement the objectives of the organization, as Co-Executive Director Tara Burke explains, ”This year we are very excited about being able to offer an unlimited number of people the outdoor experience, as well as the indoor experience to a more limited number of visitors than we have in previous years. During the spring and summer as residents were dealing with the stay-at-home order, we felt it was important to offer a respite to the community. We had a wonderful exhibit of fairy houses that definitely attracted visitors, but we also found that people were discovering and re-discovering our extensive grounds and so very appreciative of the ability to enjoy them while practicing social distance.” The 400 acres of gardens, open space and wooded trails that make-up the historic estate are open to the public for general access as well as scheduled programs and events that take place throughout the year. 

This year’s program includes an outdoor presentation, coordinated by Landscape Director George Chapman, who also serves as the volunteer coordinator. A callout to the public for their participation in creating outdoor vignettes that will be incorporated into a Woodland Village. Chapman, who is responsible for much of the treasured horticulture that Highfield has become known for, will work with the community volunteers who will create an intriguing new attraction that will allow visitors to enjoy safely. Dougherty’s Stickwork sculpture will be illuminated making the grounds truly magical.

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