Back in the Spring of 1982, several savvy Kennebunkport businessmen got together to discuss the prospect of staging a Christmas celebration in this seaside village — something that would both foster a sense of community spirit while also helping local merchants feel a little flush before the long harsh winter cramped the tourist trade.
That first Christmas Prelude Weekend was simple and special. A few hundred visitors enjoyed a tree lighting in Dock Square, a musical concert in the church, candlelight caroling throughout the village, and Santa's arrival by lobster boat. Then, over the next two decades, Prelude went on steroids.
This year, Christmas Prelude was launched on November 29 with a Holiday on Ice Kick-Off Party, headlined by dueling pianos inside a heated tent at Old Vines Wine Bar. Among other events that opening day was a reception sponsored by the local Historical Society at White Columns, a magnificent 1853 Green Revival home decorated to Yuletide perfection.
Ten action-packed days and nights later, Prelude 2018 concludes on December 9 with a Pooch Parade (“deck out your doggie in his favorite holiday attire”), Christmas karaoke at the Pilot House, a popular local watering hole, and a musical concert at the first Congregational Church.
Over the nearly two weeks of Prelude 2018, there are more than 200 events — pancake breakfasts at the local fire station; lobster roll lunches at Atlantic Hall; umpteen craft fairs from Cape Porpoise to Arundel; the popular “hat parade” (hand made or store bought) through Dock Square, led by the Patriot Fife and Drum Duo; creating hot chocolate decorations at our town’s better version of Starbucks, a coffee bar known as Mornings in Paris; attending a “how to deck your halls, walls and tables” exhibit at Hurlbutt Designs, one of the top shops in southern Maine; sipping fish chowder for suppah, then watching a pyrotechnic display of fireworks over the Cove.
WHICH IS WHY I boarded a JetBlue flight out of West Palm Beach last Wednesday, heading north towards home. “This is a full flight and we are asking for volunteers….” “We welcome Group A who purchased roomier $eats…” “We now ask members of the military and families with children to board.” “And now, members of the Medallion Club and adults needing assistance,” anyone but Valerie Marier and the only other passenger in Group D waiting to be called.
“We’re having a slight problem with the video. We’ll reset it and hopefully be up and running in 10 minutes.” “I’m sorry, ma’am, that your overhead light didn’t work this entire flight, but we will send you a coupon that’s good for a complimentary beverage on your next trip.”
WHICH IS WHY pal Sandy Boardman drove up and down York County earlier this week, hoping to buy red and green sprinkles to decorate Christmas cookies for her Prelude visitors. Hannaford, bizarrely, stocked only pink sprinkles. (“What’s up with that?” she asked.) Market Basket featured one small bin near the Express Check-out. Even harder was finding cookie tins. “Don’t these people know what’s going on in the world?”
WHICH IS WHY thousands of people gathered in Dock Square last night, bundled in puffer coats and Santa hats, enthusiastically counting down (Five! Four! Three! Two! One!”) to the lighting of a spectacular 35-foot-tall tree displaying 15,000 twinkling lights.
Tis the season, no doubt about it, right here in Kennebunkport, Maine.