Christmas in Harrison wins award, wins hearts

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

HARRISON — Christmas in Harrison is steeped in tradition.

There are the events that have been carried from one generation to another such as the Saturday morning parade down Main Street, children frosting gingerbread cookies at the library and Santa’s appearance — this year at the Harrison VFW on Friday night.

Then, there is the tradition of putting together Christmas in Harrison. This collaboration involves volunteers from all sectors of the community. Small business owners, church parishioners, and people from groups like the Harrison Lions Club and the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary and the Harrison Recreation Department — all put their time into getting prepared for and being part of Christmas in Harrison.

A series of events takes place tonight and Friday evening with the majority of activities planned for Saturday from the early morning through the late evening.

Resident Sandy Swett, who helps organize Christmas in Harrison and also runs the Harrison Food Bank, said that a magical transformation takes place in her hometown this time of year.

“Christmas in Harrison has been in existence for a long time. It is truly a community event. It changes the town into a Currier and Ives print. The stores are open and people can walk from place to place,” Swett said.

Main Street is compact and walkable with all its storefronts open and involved in Christmas in Harrison. Along Main Street, with its sidewalks and quaint stone bridge and boat launch, people have nice views of Long Lake. From its small downtown, a person can grab a bite to eat, take a dance class, gas up, grab some groceries or stop into their local library.

“People have actually moved here for Christmas in Harrison,” Swett said.

While residents have good reason to get excited about their annual holiday celebration, Christmas in Harrison has garnered some recognition outside of town. The Cumberland County government presented a 2018 Spirit of America award to Christmas in Harrison.

“We got the Spirit of America award from Cumberland County. I brought the award to the Town of Harrison town office and they put it on the wall so that when people come to the town office, they can see it and be proud of their town,” Swett said.

Fortunately for the community, there is another tradition: offering free or donation-only activities to the public. The horse-drawn carriage rides are free; the hamburgers and hot dogs prepared by the Lions are free; the swag wreaths that people can decorate themselves are free, Swett said.

Christmas in Harrison organizers understand the importance of offering free events to families and area residents so that pre-Christmas traditions are affordable, Swett said. She said she met a lady, who, after raising her children, volunteered for Christmas in Harrison. The lady said prior to volunteering, she never knew how much was offered for free. Therefore, the woman never brought her children to the annual event for fear they couldn’t do much because of the family’s tight budget, Swett said.

“Everything is pretty much free other than the crafts that are being sold at two locations,” she said.

The local crafts fairs are a staple of Christmas in Harrison and allows some people to check off their Christmas shopping list with made-in-Maine items. The crafts fairs are held in the Harrison Grange Hall and in the basement of the The United Parish UCC church in Harrison. Upstairs in the church will be a display of homemade quilts that a quilting group has sewn and will donate to patients at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland. The quilts are draped over the pews for people to view.

Saturday’s craft fairs go from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The doors will be open to the public following the parade, which starts at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday.

For those arriving before the parade, the Olde Mill Tavern offers breakfast by donation beginning at 7 a.m.

“It is a full house. People come out and they love it,” Swett said.

The draft horse-drawn carriage rides will be offered for a couple of hours on Saturday, from about 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Swett said.

Throughout the day on Saturday, there are free crafts offered at different venues.

Another free event begins at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) off Route 37. It’s a night of entertainment and the promise of seeing Santa.

The show is free to the public, Swett said. People are being asked to bring a new, unwrapped gift to donate to the local Christmas for Kids organization.

“Friday, there is a big show. Michael Menes is a juggler and an entertainer. He does optical illusions. He has entertained people at the Celebration Barn Theater. He is going to be here. He’s a world class entertainer,” she said.

“It is for all ages really. We put the kids down front on the floor so they are up close, and the chairs are set up for the adults,” she said.

New in 2018: There will be two Christmas tree lighting ceremonies as part of Christmas in Harrison.

For the first time, an evergreen was secured and set up inside the gazebo at the Crystal Lake Park. That tree-lighting took place Wednesday, and involved the Harrison Recreation Department, Town Manager Tim Pellerin and one lucky essayist with a handful of angel glitter thrown on the Chirstmas tree in the park.

As it always has been, the big evergreen next to the Caswell Conservancy Center has been strung with lights.

That traditional tree lighting — outside the Conservancy Center — starts  today at 4:30 p.m.

Following the tree lighting, people can head to the Congregational church where, from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., there will be soups and desserts and music.

At 7:30 p.m. tonight, a live nativity scene will play out on the church lawn.

“It’s wonderful. At 7:30, when people are leaving, they come out into a live nativity scene. My friends bring farm animals. With the live animals that people have brought, we do also have the shepherds, the three wisemen, Mother Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus,” Swett said. “The Milltown Road Show Band sings, ‘Mary Did You Know?’ Every year, we try to get a baby from the community. We are usually fortunate to get a child to be in the nativity scene.”

For more information on events and times and locations, please go to the Facebook page for Christmas in Harrison.



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