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Downtown Portland kicks off holiday season on Friday

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Downtown Portland kicks off holiday season on Friday

PORTLAND
— The city's holiday season kicks off Friday, with the annual tree lighting and horse and train rides.

The lights on the city's Christmas tree will be turned on at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 27 in Monument Square. The annual event will feature performances by members of the Portland Conservatory of Music and the Maine State Ballet.

Rick Charette and the Bubble Gum Band will also play in the square that evening.

Free horse-and-wagon rides around the Arts District and Old Port will be available starting Nov. 27, and continuing each Friday, Saturday and Sunday through the weekend of Dec. 20. The wagon rides will originate in Monument Square on Fridays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad will be turned into the "Polar Express" for the holidays. The railroad has teamed up with the Children's Museum and Theatre of Maine for a second year to create the experience based on the popular illustrated book. 

Actors in pajamas will sit in each railroad car and tell the "Polar Express" story on the way to the North Pole. Artist Shawn Cole is creating a North Pole outpost out of two railroad cars at the end of the Eastern Promenade rail, where Santa Claus and his elves will be waiting.

The "Polar Express" trip includes the train ride, carols and hot chocolate and cookies. "Polar Express" runs begin Nov. 27 and continue Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until the week before Christmas. From Dec. 17 to Dec. 23, the express will be available every day. Tickets can be purchased at PortTix.com or by calling 842-0800. For more information, go to mngrr.org.

Also on Nov. 27, the State Theater Neighborhood Galleries are hosting a holiday stroll from noon to 9 p.m. 

Participants in the stroll have a chance to win free art if they visit each of the six galleries, which include Sylvia Kania Gallery, Holly Ready Gallery, Daunis Fine Jewelry, Two Paths Gallery and 9 Hands Gallery. For more information, go to statetheaterneighborhoodgalleries.blogspot.com.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net.