***Editor’s note: This story was written before weather forced the cancellation of the Christmas Walk Parade and the relocation of Santa’s landing to Marblehead High School on Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. For the updated schedule, click HERE.
All your favorites will be back, plus there will be a few new twists when the Marblehead Christmas Walk returns this weekend.
The “marquee” events will again include a pair of Friday night tree lightings, first in the National Grand Bank parking lot on Pleasant Street and then a tree constructed out of lobster traps outside of Mud Puddle Toys on Washington Street, with sea chanteys led by Glover’s Regiment providing musical accompaniment.
Then on Saturday morning, Santa and Mrs. Claus will arrive by lobster boat at town landing on Front Street, and by the time the North Pole couple are finished greeting their adoring fans, it will be time to start the annual Christmas Walk parade at 11:45 a.m.
Starting late Thursday afternoon, businesses will be offering holiday cheer and special events, the Lee Mansion will allow visitors to peruse the entries in the Marblehead Family Fund’s Gingerbread Festival, houses of worship will host fairs and open houses, and the weekend evenings will be capped with the Old North Church Festival Chorus’ annual Christmas concerts.
Matthew Martin of National Grand Bank will be back to emcee the Friday night festivities in the bank parking lot, which will begin at 5:30 p.m. and once again feature performances by local school choruses and other special guests, according to Marblehead Chamber of Director Katherine Koch.
Doing the honors of lighting the tree will be the Chamber’s Rey Moulton Person of the Year, Brian Wheeler.
Wheeler reiterated that it is a “tremendous honor” to be in the company of the award’s previous winners, who have contributed so much to the vitality of the community. For his tree-lighting duties, Wheeler said he will be enlisting the help of some neighbors.
When it is suggested that his longtime service overseeing the musical performances that are a staple of the Marblehead Festival of Arts might come in handy if there are technical difficulties with the tree lighting, Wheeler joked that would be overstating his abilities as an electrician.
“I’m well versed in flipping switches, however,” he said.
Wheeler will be back for the parade the following morning, riding in style in a red Cadillac provided by Rent the Classics. If the weather cooperates – and the long-range forecast looked fair enough as of this writing – it should be a “really exciting day,” Wheeler said.
But the Marblehead Christmas Walk does not just give you one tree lighting. New Mud Puddle Toys owner Cassie Watt inherited from former owners Sam and Kristen Pollard the tradition of erecting a lobster trap tree outside the business and said there was never any question whether it would endure.
Long before she even thought about owning the toy store, Watt enjoyed bringing her own children to the lobster trap tree lighting, she explained.
The tree’s traps are being donated by the Little Harbor Lobster Company, Watt added.
“I’ll be very excited to sing sea chanteys along with Glover’s Regiment,” she said.
After Santa and Mrs. Claus make their annual arrival by lobster boat and spend a couple of hours greeting wide-eyed children on Saturday morning, it will be time for the Christmas Walk parade at 11:45 a.m.
The parade lasts for about an hour, with the route traveling from Front Street to State Street and then Washington Street, up to Five Corners and then up Atlantic Avenue as far as Gerry Street, then up Gerry to Pleasant Street before terminating at the National Grand Bank parking lot.
Veterans Agent David Rodgers said he had 20-plus groups from youth sports leagues, schools and other local organizations signed up to march as of the weekend before the parade, with other groups welcome to join the procession right up until the last minute.
As in previous years, the parade is expected to include several vintage vehicles driven by members of the Old Car Club, Rodgers added.
If you work quickly, there may also be time to sneak a late entry into the Gingerbread Festival. The Marblehead Museum, which will be open between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, has been distributing Masonite boards for gingerbread house building, and drop-off for entries at the Lee Mansion is from 10 a.m. to noon or from 3 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 1.
Judges will award honors in the following categories: Ages 5 & Under, Ages 6-10, Business, Traditional, Creative, Marblehead and School.
If you would rather just view than build, the Gingerbread Festival exhibit will be open in the Lee Mansion from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3 and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Creations can then be retrieved from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4 or from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5.
Online registration for the Gingerbread Festival is strongly encouraged at mhdfamilyfund.org.