Over the weekend the city of Blaine will begin sparkling with holiday cheer as crews from the Blaine Chamber of Commerce and Blaine Public Works department festoon the streets with Christmas lights, wreaths and stars. And, as usual, the 20' tree will take center stage at the H Street plaza, bringing crowds together for merriment and song as part of the Holiday Harbor Lights Festival on Saturday, December 7.
For more than 30 years, the city of Blaine has celebrated the advent of the holidays, inviting residents and neighbors across the border to come out to share in the spirit of the season and wait for the arrival of Santa Claus. “There are several underlying elements of the festivities,” said community tourism director Debbie Harger. “There’s the Christmas tree lighting,
the arrival of Santa, refreshments and shopping. It’s been the same forever as far as I can remember.”
Originally located in front of the police station, the Christmas tree lighting has been a stalwart of the festivities, and in the early days it was a full community endeavor to make the holidays bright. “We used to begin with caroling, and then coordinate the lighting of the tree to coincide with Santa’s arrival, but we realized that we were all out there singing in the dark,” she said. “Now, we start with the lighting and the festivities follow.” After the boardwalk was built in 2007, the Blaine Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with local merchants and the city, purchased an artificial tree and moved the lighting ceremony to its current location at the H Street plaza.
The 20' foot tree is now the gathering point for all of the festivities. “It’s a towering tree,” said Blaine Visitor Information Center manager Carroll Solomon.
To keep the holiday festivities hands-on for the community, the chamber is once again inviting local businesses to decorate their own trees and display them in G Street plaza. An award will be given to the best-dressed tree. “Groups will need to provide their own tree and decorate it,” Solomon said. “The city will make sure they are secured so they don’t blow away.”
Community members are invited to vote on which tree best showcases the holiday spirit, and ballots will be available at the Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Saturday, December 7 and through the following week at the Visitor Information Center. Voters can also cast their vote online at blainechamber.com.
There are many hours before the sun sets on Blaine and the lights shine bright, though. And before the community’s resident elves set the tree alight, residents are encouraged to come and participate in the other holiday events heralding the season.
Beginning Friday, December 6, Blaine will open its doors to the spirit of the season with the annual Homemade Arts & Crafts Bazaar at the Blaine Community Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and a Blaine Library book sale from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Both the bazaar and the book sale will continue into Saturday.
On Saturday, December 7 encounter a fun afternoon of dashing through the streets of Blaine at the Holiday Lights Obstacle Dash (a one-mile fun walk/run set for 2:30 p.m., pre-registration required – see “Coming Up” on page 14 for details).
Then stick around for a new event that has been added to the lineup, and visit the Holiday Art Market (674 Peace Portal Drive), sponsored by the Blaine Harbor Art Gallery. The exhibition features 18 artists who work in a variety of mediums such as painting, photography, fine woodworking, furniture and fiber arts. For those who want to get a head start on gift buying, art will be for sale with gift wrapping available.
Blaine will also revisit the days of yore with horse-drawn trolleys rolling through the city streets. Free rides in the trolleys are sponsored by the Blaine Chamber of Commerce from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Afterward, you can stay toasty and warm around the fire with karaoke sponsored by Thousand Trails Birch Bay Resort.
The peak event will be at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, with the community tree lighting and caroling by the Blaine High School band and choir downtown at Harborview Plaza (H Street and Peace Portal Drive).
Santa will arrive by fire engine at 5:15 p.m. and visit with children for photos and free candy canes at Blaine Pizza Factory. “That is always a highlight,” Harger said. “Santa comes with the sirens and the lights blaring, and we have a Mrs. Claus – not every small town has that.”
While visiting with Santa, children will have the opportunity to write him a letter. “Parents can also make a $1 donation to Let’s Move Blaine! while their kids are writing their letters,” Solomon said. The chamber will match all donations dollar for dollar up to $150.
Decorated boats will be on display in Drayton Harbor at Gate 2 between 6 and 7 p.m., giving onlookers a chance to marvel at the cheerily lit boats in the harbor. “The highlight of our event is that we get to have the combination of the lights from the boats and the lights from downtown, and each year it just gets better and better,” Harger said.
Contact Carroll Solomon at 360/332-4544 or Debbie Harger at 360/543-9982 to participate.