By Richard Campbell

November 24th kicked off the Boston’s 2nd annual Winter on City Plaza, which is open seven days a week until December 31, (not counting Christmas) providing a touristy winter village of sorts where people can skate, eat, shop, and drink in a family friendly environment. The skating path will be open until February 25th. The holiday shopping mart which combines tchotchke items with handmade arts is created by Millennial Entertainment, and the whole winter festival is sponsored by Berkshire Bank, Boston Development Corporation, and the City of Boston Property Management Department.

The ostensible reason for this three-year festival is to help revitalize City Hall Plaza, and make it an enjoyable venue for residents and visitors alike.  I’ve got to say the effort is appreciated, but the results are slightly underwhelming. The skating loop lacks the charm of the Frog Pond, the shopping is crafty but expensive, the food is a cut below Quincy Market, and there isn’t a lot of entertainment going on in the Quonset huts- though Bruins fans will like posing with the Stanley Cup. They have a long way to go before it looks like a Bavarian Village. The designers could start with the main drinking area that was really lack luster in decorations, and missing better food.  This all being said: for a mostly free event to kill a few hours with friends, you could do worse.

A few original ideas among vendors suggested something of old time Christmas, namely Letters from Santa, created by Kelsey Miller, of Bookified, which will send your kids responses to their requests to Santa, or even have fictional characters like Harry Potter write a note to them. The reasonably priced hand blown Christmas ornaments by Unique Christmas Ornaments had beautiful sea creatures and traditional bulbs. Fiber Arts by Miles and April Perry who came from Cape Elizabeth, Maine to promote their wall works on rustic materials, were like summer cottage art. Rusty and Ingrid Creative Company had silk screened art reminiscent of the magazine covers of yesteryear.  Intaglio Antique Prints and Maps offered up an assortment of 19th and 20th century heirloom prints suitable for framing. Of course, there were more commercial items as well.

The city has created a miniature version of the shops at Quincy Market, when what they need is a venue that is totally different. The problem with city hall plaza is that three quarters of the year this city is cold, dark, and wet. There are basically two design choices: go Olmstead and create a green common with trees, or build a year-round indoor environment. When Government Center Station was finished, I thought it might signal a future. Just maybe the city would create a giant greenhouse public space for these kinds of festivals that would illuminate the plaza at night and provide a walkable inside garden for the citizens of Boston. Rather than being redundant experience of things we already have, this would provide a whole new experience for the winter season.