HOLYOKE – C.R.U.S.H hosted “Holyoke Unmasked,” a masquerade ball at the Wistariahurst Museum on New Year’s Eve.
C.R.U.S.H (Citizens for the Revitalization and Urban Success of Holyoke) welcomed in 2009 and celebrated a successful past year. The group was formed to engage Holyoke residents and to harness resources to bring about change to the city and revitalize the downtown area.
The former Skinner Mansion filled with over 100 party-goers with men dressed in suits and women clad in elegant party dresses. Masks were optional but encouraged. The newly fallen snow nor the frigid temperatures could deter the celebrants arrival.
The main floor of the mansion was opened to guests as were adjacent rooms. The Log Cabin Restaurant catered the affair and brought along attentive staff who served a full dinner and laid out a sampling of desserts in the museum’s gallery.
The Jeremy Milligan Jazz Trio played and allowed diners to dance at their leisure in the faux-marble music room. Later in the night a DJ kept the party moving until 1 a.m.
City Historian Kate N. Thibodeau said the museum is usually closed on New Year’s Eve and some worried about the wear-and-tear with such events. “But, with a bunch of respectful, very pro-Holyoke people here tonight, who want to see buildings reused, revitalized, and alive, I think it’s actually a positive thing.”
Thibodeau said the occasion allows people, especially the younger set, to dress up and usher in the new year in style. “Having a New Year Eve’s celebration where you really start to care about what you look like, what the people are doing, is positive for the people who are here.”
After dinner the group held a raffle with items donated by area businesses and spoke about the organization and their goals for the coming year.
Holyoke City Councilor Rebecca Lisi, a group founder, said despite the weather, the event sold out for C.R.U.S.H’s first New Year Eve event. “We were surprised by how many people in community decided to come out in the bad weather and support the event.”
Lisi, who wore a mask throughout the evening, said the group continues to gain recognition through its website and other events that the organization sponsors. She said the group has 230 members.
“There’s a number of different groups on the CRUSH website that are looking for support, looking for help,” said Lisi. “One thing that has to happen is that the 230 people that have identified themselves as CRUSH members, need to really be active in looking at that site for events that are happening and how can you support events that are happening in Holyoke, how you can contribute to the organization and the volunteer activities.”
Lisi wants resident more engaged in the community, she believes that engagement will lead to positive results.
Group member and owner of Vega Yoga & Movement Arts, Aaron Vega, said the party is a culmination of their efforts over the last six-months. He said the group holds “Party with a Purpose” on the fourth Thursday of every month with different themes.
“To get together with people from Holyoke, different generations, can come together and have a good time,” said Vega. “It ends up being a kick-off of 2009 for what our organization is really going to be about: local projects, personal projects, political, social, artistic projects that people can get involved in.”
Vega said the group plans more action on initiatives over the coming months. He admits that other groups have formed over the years in Holyoke with similar intentions.
“People are energized around what we’re doing and other things in the city that are going on. We’re just trying to capture that energy and hopefully get things done, even if it’s small projects,” said Vega.
He wants residents to get more involved in the arts, such as attending art exhibits, dance opening, and, yes, yoga studios. He said the C.R.U.S.H website showcases coming events that he hopes will entice people to go out and explore the city.
“Get out of your house, become involved, the community you’re looking for is here,” said Vega.
In little over a year, Holyoke will have a new leader, as Mayor Michael J. Sullivan announced that he would not seek another term. C.R.U.S.H intends to host a mayoral debate when the slate of hopefuls become clearer.
In the meantime, the clock struck midnight and C.R.U.S.H looks forward to a new year. For more information on C.R.U.S.H, go to their website at: http://holyoke.ning.com