For the Insider
The 32nd Concord Christmas Tree Lighting Celebration on Friday is shaping up to be a great afternoon and evening downtown to officially kick off the festive holiday season in the capital city.
How many people who have lived in Concord all their lives remember it was tradition to light the Christmas tree lights and the Nativity Scene located on the State House Plaza? The Capitol Shopping Center would have a large artificial street erected in the parking lot near Stop & Shop with garland and bells around the shopping center from Britts Department Store to Stop & Shop. There was no actual celebration.
However, Merrimack County Pomona Grange received coordination of the Nativity Scene after vandals damaged the stable building with graffiti. Two years later, Jim Milliken, former executive director of the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce, asked Dick Patten if the Grange would assume the lighting of the Christmas tree on the plaza. Pineconia Grange 322, now known as Concord Grange 322, took control of providing the lights for the tree, so long as the city brought the tree to the plaza. This still takes place today, with the Grange also providing lights for the Heights tree and the Eagle Square tree.
This year’s celebration will take place by tradition on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, with activities starting at 3:30 p.m. The Concord Knights of Columbus and Concord Grange will have the Christmas Creche (Nativity Scene) placed on the State House Plaza to be lighted that evening. There will be a new petting zoo this year called Uncle Donny’s Traveling Circus from Derry. He will have a wide variety of animals for boys and girls to pet and feed. He will also have ponies for children to ride.
Bruce Locke from Barnstead will return with two wagons with draft horses to offer rides for young and old. This year the area from Loudon Road to School Street will be closed to vehicle traffic from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
The tree in Eagle Square is dedicated to members of the armed forces who can’t be home for the holidays. This was the Grange’s tribute to the men and women who serve our country in countries that don’t celebrate our holidays.
The Concord Fire Department will bring Santa Claus to the State House Plaza to visit boys and girls and listen to their holiday wishes. There will be all kinds of free refreshments from the Salvation Army, Granite State Baptist Church, Carter Hill Orchard, Apple Hill Farm, Capital City Rotary Club and more to enjoy. The Salvation Army will have their red kettle with volunteers ringing the bell to let people know they need donations. A special guest this year is Gov. Chris Sununu, who will speak to the crowd. Having the governor present resumes a tradition that former governor John Lynch began.
Brian Waldron and his band are back to entertain everyone with holiday music. There is also a rumor that Alex Preston from American Idol may show up. Waldron will start singing at 4 p.m., and WJYY 105.5 will be emceeing the event. The annual Skip Houle Memorial Fireworks Display will follow the countdown to the tree lighting at 6 p.m.
Donations are still being accepted, and organizers are still in need of volunteers to help with the activities. Contact Dick Patten at 496-2917 for information on how to donate or volunteer.