By Barbara Tetreault
ANDROSCOGGIN VALLEY – Spend Thanksgiving day with family and friends and then join your loved ones in celebrating the holiday season with a full weekend of activities and shopping right here at home.
Highlighting the festivities is the Christmas Parade of Lights in downtown Berlin on Friday evening, Nov. 24. Sponsored by the Berlin Main Street Program, the parade has heralded the start of the Christmas season for over a quarter of a century. All the floats are required to have lights, making for a spectacular display against the dark night.
Last year the program doubled the prize money for the top winners in an effort to encourage more entries. Main Street Program head Sylvia Poulin said they are seeing new organizations and businesses sign up for the parade.
“We should have a great parade,” she said.
The theme of this year’s parade is “Cartoon Christmas,” and, as usual, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be making an appearance in the parade. The parade kicks off at 7 p.m. at Aubuchon Hardware lot and will go up Main Street to city hall. This year’s sponsor is Service Credit Union.
The Saturday after Thanksgiving has been designated “Small Business Saturday” nationally. Created in 2010 by American Express, the promotion is designed to encourage shoppers to shop at their small, independently-owned retailer or dine at an independently-owned restaurant.
“Small Business Saturday provides people an opportunity to discover and celebrate the variety of small businesses that make their communities thrive,” said Elizabeth Rutledge, executive vice president, global advertising and brand management at American Express. “Beyond visiting their favorite go-to spots, shoppers say Small Business Saturday inspires them to visit places they have not been to before and would not have otherwise tried.”
As part of its “Be Local, Buy Local” campaign, the Berlin Main Street Program reminds shoppers that supporting local small businesses strengthens the local economy because they employ local people and pay property taxes. The businesses are also supporters of various community activities and host events such as Drive in the ‘50s, Jericho Downtown Block Party, and Parade of Lights.
“If we want our stores to stay here, we have to shop at them,” said Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Paula Kinney.
Kinney said local merchants provide customer service that shoppers cannot get online or at big box retailers. She said the Androscoggin Valley is blessed to have a variety of retail merchants and small businesses offering quality goods and services.
Poulin said her program is offering horse wagon rides on Saturday, Nov. 25, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. During that same time, there will be a “Meet and Greet” with Santa and Mrs. Claus at Badger Realty on Main Street. She said many downtown merchants will be offering great promotions on Saturday.
Shoppers can get a boost of energy by taking in Recycled Percussion at the Medallion Opera House in Gorham. The band is bringing its Las Vegas act to Gorham for three shows — 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 25, and 4 p.m. on Sunday. Band member Ryan Veniza is promising some new twists to the show and promised attendees will not go away disappointed.
So forego the travel this Thanksgiving weekend and do your shopping and dining locally and enjoy some quality entertainment.