Meet Me at the ‘Kissing Balls Bridge’ in Farmington, Connecticut
Posted on December 14, 2015
Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com
And if our love is true … Little tugs at the heartstrings more than plans for a clandestine love to be brought to light and sealed by a kiss in a future romantic rendezvous. Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr gave unforgettable authenticity to such a story in the 1957 classic film “An Affair to Remember”, with a promise to reunite atop the Empire State Building six months after they fell for each other on a cruise despite being engaged to other people. Timeless in its intent to stir the emotions, an Empire State Building meeting was reprised by Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan some forty years later in the movie “Sleepless in Seattle”.
In what other memorable spot might the lovelorn rekindle an old adoration, or a budding romance blossom? Ever been kissed on the ‘Kissing Balls Bridge’ in Farmington, Connecticut?
Actually, for most months of the year it is better known as the Vincent DiPietro Memorial Bridge spanning the Farmington River along Route 4, near a gateway into town. Come the Christmas holiday season however, rows of beautiful kissing balls seem magically to appear on either side of the bridge. That magic is compliments of a growing tradition coordinated by the town of Farmington’s Economic Development Commission, paid for by sponsors and brought to life by the extraordinary handiwork of Southington-based Winterberry Landscape & Garden Center.
“Winterberry Gardens outdid themselves again this year, every year they seem to get bigger and better,” Rose Ponte, Farmington Economic Development Director, noted about the kissing balls in a press release.
Adorned by big red bows along with streaming red and gold ribbons, this year some two dozen kissing balls sway in the wind suspended above the Farmington River on vintage style light posts while awaiting the arrival of a December snowfall – and of course a romantic convergence or two. Care should be taken by those who decide to make their way near the busy road onto the inner pedestrian walks for a short stroll. One might suggest care should always be taken when it comes to matters of the heart, if as well, testing the kissing balls is in the offing.
Dedicated in 2010, reportedly thanks to a grassroots campaign the new bridge was named for longtime Farmington firefighter Vincent DiPietro who served the town for 34 years, also as fire chief and fire marshal, and who served during the war in Vietnam. He passed away in 2008.
The bridge kissing balls have been so well received by the public that kissing balls have been added in the Unionville section of Farmington, according to Ponte.
Kissing Balls date back to the Middle Ages say various online sources. Originally crafted as seasonal holy boughs of “interlocking evergreens”, they are said to have signified glad blessings to those who passed beneath them. During Puritan times they were frowned upon but regained popularity during the era of Queen Victoria of England. It was during that period that herbs such as lavender and rosemary were added to the boughs symbolizing loyalty and devotion, or thyme symbolizing courage. By the end of the 19th Century, the kissing balls took on a romantic meaning. With the addition of mistletoe sprigs, unmarried men and unmarried ladies would kiss beneath the boughs.
Today they are thought to take on many meanings, depending upon whatever herbs may be included in the beautiful boughs. In some cases they may invite a kiss, while at other times representing the kindness of the season. Contemporary kissing balls are considered “harbingers” of the holidays. And it has been noted, whatever else they might stand for, kissing balls are always meant to welcome visitors.
P.S. It is still possible to join in the sponsorship program of this yearlong project. Contact Rose Ponte at 860-675-2395.