Published November 29, 2018
By MAUREEN DOHERTY
NORTH READING — The Christmas spirit was bountiful at the 13th annual Holiday Light Festival Sunday afternoon on and around the town common.
Sponsored by the Reading-North Reading Chamber of Commerce at multiple venues in the town center, hundreds of families turned out for the two-hour extravaganza culminating with Santa’s arrival by fire truck to flip the switch on the Christmas tree which also magically and simultaneously lit up all the other trees surrounding the common too, as well as the bandstand.
Multiple organizations joined together to make it a true intergenerational event and all the activities were offered free of charge thanks to the sponsorships by the town’s business community.
Children visited with Santa and had their photos taken with him while also receiving goodie bags and enjoying songs of the season sung by NOTEtorious, NRHS’s a cappella group, all at the Reading Coop Bank. Trolley rides brought families from the bank up to the top of the common where they could also enjoy a hayride on the flatbed pulled by an old fashioned cherry red tractor driven all afternoon by Mark Hall.
At the top of the common people watched in awe as an ice sculptor carved Rudolph out of a block of ice. Children had fun on the pony rides bouncy house shaped like a Christmas tree and young and old alike watched the Patriots on a large digital screen while enjoying refreshments served from food trucks, performances by local dancing schools, and listening to the festive NRHS band.
The Friends of the Library held its annual cookie walk and the room was also jammed packed with children making holiday cards while listening to Art Grossman sing. Art was occasionally joined by enthusiastic youngsters and he was more than willing to share the stage.
Inside the 200-year-old Damon Tavern, the Historic Commission had a special face painting room with three artists who had constant visitors while hundreds of people explored the tiny tavern rooms decorated in period furnishings and learned about the nearly 200-year-old Rufus Porter murals in the the ballroom from artist Suzanne Carroll Korn. Children also enjoyed stories read by children’s librarian Danielle Masterson.
The grounds of the historic Rev. Daniel Putnam House were also busy as each of the museums were open for both self-guided tours and informative talks about each building from members of the Historical and Antiquarian Society and the Minit & Militia dressed in period costume. Every room in the Putnam House is decorated for Christmas and the fire in the open hearth fireplace kept everyone warm.
Over in the Putnam House Barn the town’s churches and Christian Community Service hosted a live nativity, recreating the first Christmas in Bethlehem with Mary and Joseph keeping watch over the babe in the manger and live barnyard animals, large and small, for the children to pet as well as live music and stories.
At dusk, hundreds of people made their way from each of the venues they had been exploring to the top of the town common for the main event. The children followed Santa like the Pied Piper as he took the time to greet the little ones on his way over to the ceremonial tree lighting to ring in the holiday season, capping off a memorable day for all.