Inflatable Christmas celebration comes to Padanaram

Dec 5, 2020

Covid may have stolen Padanaram’s annual Christmas Festival, but two Dartmouth teens brought back some of the wonder of the season by hosting an inflatable display in Padanaram on Dec. 4.

15-year-old Braiden Norton and his friend Carlos Jeronimo, 13, set up the one-off event to spread Christmas cheer to South Coast families and to raise funds for the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital’s Pediatric Department.

Norton spent time recovering from a long series of brain surgeries at Spaulding after doctors discovered a tumor — a noncancerous form of juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma — at the top of his brain stem when he was just 18 months old.

Since the Christmas Festival was cancelled this year, Norton decided to do something on his own. “I decided to make a fundraiser out of it for Spaulding, and just enjoy it,” he said.

“They’re a really awesome organization,” he added of the rehabilitation hospital. “Just whatever we can get, I want to help them.”

The Padanaram display is the culmination of Norton’s life-long love of inflatables.

“Ever since I was a little kid, I loved balloons,” he said. “My dad would take me to Party City every day and buy me a balloon...And then I found inflatables and I started collecting them over the years.”

Norton’s collection started years ago with Frosty the Snowman, and now he said he has 11 of them.

After seeing how popular his inflatable decorations were outside the family’s gallery at last year’s festival — “that was a big hit,” he said — Norton decided to bring them back for the one-off fundraiser.

Some inflatables moved, like an airplane with a spinning propellor and a carousel that turned to music, while others — a large Peanuts-themed doghouse — had fake snow blowing inside.

All of them entranced the children and families who came out from around the South Coast to have a look.

“It’s great, he loves this stuff, so this is perfect,” said one father watching his son enjoy the scene. “There’s nothing going on this year, so this little bit of whatever is something for the kids.”

Fairhaven resident Jared Roy was taking in the sights with his six-year-old son Parker, who said that he loves Transformers and minions. 

Roy is one of the elves who hang up the lights in Padanaram. “He’s been asking about the lights,” he said, nodding at his son.

“My daddy did all of this,” said Parker proudly, indicating the illuminated village. “Not alone,” Jared added with a laugh.

Parker noted that his favorite inflatable was a giant minion at the center of the display.

As for Norton’s favorite? 

“That’s a hard choice,” he laughed, before pointing out two of the biggest ones. “I like fat Santa and the nutcracker.”