BHS Winter Wonderfest Drive-Thru Draws Thousands, Brings Joy During Difficult Times

3 mins read

Barrington’s first Winter Wonderfest Holiday Drive-Thru Extravaganza from December 11-13 was a huge success! Hosted by Barrington Fine Arts and Barrington High School, organizers say the 3-day evening event drew about 1,300 cars carrying an estimated 4,000 visitors. About 250 students and staff teamed up to make the fest a highlight of 2020.

The event featured live BHS fine arts student performances, Christmas trees decorated by each of the district’s schools, and a holiday lights display set to music, all choreographed by students for guests to enjoy from the safety and comfort of their cars.

*All Winter Wonderfest Photos courtesy of long-time BHS-TV Teacher, Jeff Doles.

BHS Principal Steve McWilliams made a special appearance as Santa and Friday’s rain did not dampen the holiday spirit. Barrington 220 Director of Fine, Visual & Performing Arts, Brigid Tileston says the event’s success is due to our community of students, staff and families coming together to bring joy during difficult times. They loved welcoming all Barrington 220 schools to participate and the life-sized cardboard cutouts of the district’s principals were definitely a highlight.

Winter Wonderfest Photos by BHS-TV Teacher, Jeff Doles

Here’s Brigid Tileston’s reflection on the weekend festivities, in her own words, along with a gallery of beautiful photos captured by teacher, Jeff Doles followed by his BHS-TV students’ special holiday video.

Brigid Tileston: “The idea for Winter Wonderfest came from the BHS Fine Arts staff. We have a lot of winter traditions here, from winter choir, band and orchestra concerts. We’ve done a lot virtually this year where we’ve brought in students and recorded them on stage to share videos remotely. We’ve talked about the challenge of not having a live audience in front of the kids along with that sense of community and that sense of being together. We’ve been at the forefront of bringing students in for different things. Our fall plays outside of the school this year were amazing. People tuned in to their radios as kids performed on the front steps of the high school building which was really special and unique. That’s where the idea of the Winter Wonderfest light show came to be.”

Brigid Tileston: “We decided to reach out to other clubs and sports teams and other schools in the district to get them involved and we were really pleased with all of the different groups wanting to participate in what turned out to be a whole school spirit event. There was an Orchesis dance concert with performers and full lighting outside. There were musical performances and a student-produced holiday video shown as a drive-up movie. All of the district’s elementary and middle schools were represented with 13 different Christmas trees they decorated, all purchased through the girls’ basketball fundraiser.”

Brigid Tileston: “The back-and-forth between the school and the community was very, very powerful. The cars, the conversation,  having the live audience there was very meaningful to the students and the people going by. It was a powerful, emotional thing that we were able to find a way to bring everyone together safely and so many people pitched in. The custodians hung lanterns painted by fine arts students, the PE teachers were helping us problem solve, it was really a whole-school, whole-district collaboration and the students felt very supported by the community.”

Brigid Tileston: “Even with the rain on Friday, I almost felt like it brought us closer together to problem solve. The fact that the community still came out in the pouring rain shows our resilience and what we’re all trying to accomplish in our personal and professional lives right now. How do we stay together as a community and get creative? I think the arts – music, dance, theater, film – it all plays a huge part of what’s getting people through the pandemic.

“It brings a lot of joy to the students to be able to share thier talents. There’s a power to music and performance because they express emotions in a way that we can not otherwise and I think there’s a lot to be expressed and worked through right now when it comes to social-emotional learning. Winter Wonderfest was just a very authentic experience and opportunity for our students to create their artwork, light show and even persevere through the rain. Our goal for the Fine Arts Department this year is resilience. I think the way resilience brought us together to host this memorable weekend is a really important lesson.”

To top it all off, together the students, staff and community raised $2,000 to help WINGS break the cycle of domestic violence. They also filled 12 enormous boxes of food which they just donated to support area families currently seeking assistance from the Cuba Township Food Pantry. Bravo and thank you, Barrington Fine Arts, for bringing some much needed comfort and joy to this holiday season.

*All Winter Wonderfest Photos courtesy of long-time BHS-TV Teacher, Jeff Doles. (Thanks, Jeff!)


  1. Definitely one of the largest and most impactful projects my students and I have had the pleasure of being involved with in my 20 years at BHS. Huge kudos to Fine Arts Director Brigid Tileston for having the drive and determination and not being intimidated to attempt such a large scale project. Fine Arts staff, district administration, students and the community came together to make the BHS Winter Wonderfest a success. Great job!

  2. Awesome job, BHS, D#220, and Barrington Community. It was fantastic on so many levels. As a second generation BHS alum with third generation BHS alum kids of my own, and as a resident of Barrington and D220 teacher, I felt tremendous pride and gratitude. Your resilience was beautiful!

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