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Christmas tree celebrations light up the Valley

MADAWASKA, Maine — More than 200 people gathered Friday and Saturday night at tree lighting ceremonies in Madawaska and Fort Kent to kick off the holiday season.

Santa hands 21-month-old Charly Theriault a pink Christmas stocking as sister Taylor Thornton holds her during the Fort Kent Tree Lighting celebration in front of the public library Saturday night. (Morgan Mitchell | SJVT/FhF)

After children finished telling Santa what they wanted for Christmas in Madawaska Friday evening, they ran to play on the snow banks in the Kmart parking lot while their parents visited over hot chocolate and waited for the ceremonial blessing and lighting of the tree which was donated by the Knights of Columbus.

Town Manager Gary Picard said he was “pretty sure” that the Farmer’s Market Pavilion would be the place for the tree lighting from this year forward.

“It’s a great location and we hope to do a lot more with it in the future,” he said.

Despite a mix-up regarding the date of the tree lighting versus the first St. John Valley Light Parade, close to 70 people showed up for tree lighting in Madawaska at the Farmer’s Market Pavilion.

The light parade will be Dec. 23, according to new St. John Valley Chamber of Commerce Director Jenn Collin.

“We really want to do a parade where we want to have more lights, more floats, more people involved,” she said.

Saturday night, Fort Kent held its annual tree lighting celebration outside the Fort Kent Public Library hosted by the Fort Kent Lions Club and the Fort Kent Chamber of Commerce.

Meagan Plourde, a chamber board member, said the purpose of the evening was to bring joy to the children and adults alike, both with the tree lighting and  by helping Santa give stockings to the children.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for everyone from the town to come together and have a good reminder of what Christmas is all about,” Plourde said.

Molly Cairns, 8, gives Santa a work of art made just for him during the Fort Kent Tree Lighting Celebration in front of the Fort Kent Public Library on Saturday night. (Morgan Mitchell | SJVT/FhF)

Kris Malmborg, the chairman for the project for the Fort Kent Lions Club, said the organization has been doing the tree lighting ceremony since 1986.

The local Army National Guard planted the Christmas tree in the 50s as part of a project to give back to the community, according to Malmborg. The town first decorated and lit up the tree with Christmas lights in 1954.

A line of more than 100 children formed before the evening even started. At 6:01 p.m., the children (and adults) began counting down to illuminate the tree. Within seconds of the tree lighting up, lights flashed and sirens wailed down the road toward the University of Maine at Fort Kent, as a fire truck barreled down toward the library.

Malmborg told the excited audience that the tree was illuminated so bright, that Santa Claus must have noticed and decided to make a stop to visit the children.

Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived and greeted the grinning children before taking up spots at the front of the library where the children could approach the jolly man, one by one, and tell him what they wanted for Christmas. One little girl, 8-year-old Molly Cairns, handed Santa a work of art she made especially for him.

“I made him a picture because I love him,” she said.

Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus dance by the light of the Christmas tree light during the annual Tree Lighting Celebration Friday night at the Farmer’s Market Pavilion in Madawaska. (Morgan Mitchell | SJVT/FhF)

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