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Holiday lights, Christmas tree to transform Houlton into winter wonderland

HOULTON, Maine — It may not be a traditional holiday season, but local volunteer groups are trying their best to make the season a joyous one.

The town Christmas tree arrived in Market Square Friday, Nov. 20, with a second tree positioned on North Street, thanks to the efforts of volunteers Roger Callnan, Brian Dickison, Josh McLaughlin, Raymond Jay and Calvin Joslyn. 

The group was instrumental in getting two massive balsam fir trees from a wooded lot to the downtown this year, According to Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jane Torres.

The two 30-foot-tall balsam fir trees were harvested from a field on the Porter Settlement Road, which according to Torres, will be able to supply the town with several large trees over the next few years.

“It is really hard to find a tree that grows in the wild that can actually look good,” Torres said. “Normally, large trees in the wild either have bare spots from growing up against other trees, or are hollow on one side. These two are beautiful.”

The two trees, as well as a live tree in Riverfront Park, will be adorned with holiday lights Saturday and illuminated starting Saturday night. 

Traditionally, the Christmas trees are officially lit at the culmination of the town’s Holiday Light Parade, by Santa and Mrs. Claus, while surrounded by throngs of children and their parents. This year, because of COVID-19 restrictions, having such a gathering in Market Square is not possible, so Torres said the decision was made to light the tree with no fanfare.

The Christmas parade, which has been held longer than most people can remember, has evolved over the years from a mid-afternoon event with marching bands and floats, to a nighttime parade filled with vehicles adorned with all manners of lights.

The event this year is not being called a parade because of COVID-19. That means there will be no walkers passing out candy canes, and Santa and Mrs. Claus will not be available to meet with area children at the County Co-Op and Farm store as has traditionally been the case.

Instead, this year’s event will be a “Cruise-in with Santa,” featuring an altered route to reduce places for people to gather in large crowds. Starting at the North Street Shopping Plaza at 6 p.m. Nov. 28, the cruise will travel down North Street, over to Kendall Street and then onto Military Street before ending at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

“We felt it was best to bypass downtown this year,” Torres said. “This way, people will be encouraged to view the cruise within their family pods or in their vehicles.”

Anyone who would like to enter a vehicle in the cruise is encouraged to call the Chamber of Commerce at 207-532-4216 to register.  This year’s theme is “Star Spangled Christmas.”

In addition to the cruise-in, local radio station WHOU 100.1 FM owner Fred Grant has organized two “Houlton Lights” holiday decoration events for those in southern Aroostook County. A home decorating contest is now underway, with participants able to register their home online for a chance to win a cash prize. 

“We want as many people as possible to decorate their homes for the holidays,” Grant said. “They can register their house on WHOUFM.com and we’ll include the address on a map so people can find the decorations.”

Monument Park will also be getting a holiday, nighttime makeover as volunteers have been busy adorning many trees in the park with lights.

“We are also putting in photo opportunity displays,” Grant said. “We will have a ‘Memory Tree’ out by the Cary Library where people can put an ornament to remember a family member, an event, someone they love or really anything they would like to remember or recognize. We’ve been decorating this week and we’ll turn the lights on fully this weekend. The idea is that we want to brighten the darkest days of the year and send 2020 out in lights.”

Cary Memorial Library is illuminated by a variety of colorful lights this year. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

This motorcycle sculpture is colorfully decorated at Houlton Monument Park. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

The town Christmas tree was officially illuminated Saturday evening in downtown Houlton. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

Volunteers helped erect a 30-foot balsam fir tree in Market Square Friday, officially marking the start of the holiday season.  (Joseph Cyr|Houlton Pioneer Times)

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