Portland tree lighting to launch holiday fun

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PORTLAND — The city’s Christmas tree will be lit Friday, Nov. 25, as the annual Light Up Your Holidays Festival kicks off at 5 p.m. in Monument Square.

The 40-foot blue spruce was donated by David and Barbara Ripley of 43 Harris Ave., and will be the centerpiece of a party that includes a visit from Santa Claus, music by Rick Charette and the Bubblegum Band, and an inflatable snow globe.

City Arborist Jeff Tarling supervised the tree removal on Thursday, Nov. 17, as the Ripleys and their neighbors watched on the street off outer Forest Avenue.

“It must have been 2 1/2 to 3 feet high when we planted it 30 years ago,” David Ripley said as a crane from Keely Crane Services hoisted the tree more than 40 feet to swing it over utility wires and down to a flatbed truck provided by Shaw Brothers Construction.

“My neighbors used to call it ‘the Charlie Brown tree,'” David Ripley said. “Now Charlie Brown is going to Congress Street.”

Tarling said it is not uncommon to hoist a tree above utility wires, but the process can cause anxiety.

“Nice to see it laying down in one piece,” he said as the tree was secured to the flatbed.

Ripley said life without the tree will be different.

“We have been looking at that out the window for so long, now we are going to see the rest of the street,” he said.

The holiday festival, organized by Portland Downtown and sponsored by local businesses, continues through the weekend and into December with horse-drawn wagon rides through the Old Port and merchant sales events.

The wagon rides will be held Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 18. The Friday hours, beginning Nov. 25, are 4-8 p.m. On Saturdays, rides will last from 2-6 p.m. and from 1-5 p.m. on Sundays.

Wagon rides will also be offered from 5-9 p.m. Dec. 8 as part of the Merry Madness shopping event.

On Nov. 26, shoppers are invited to help the Milestone Foundation during the all-day Shop For a Cause event featuring more than 40 Old Port and Congress Street businesses. The nonprofit Milestone Foundation offers housing and services to people with substance use disorders on India Street in Portland and in Old Orchard Beach.

Almost 30 businesses will offer refreshments and specials to shoppers each Wednesday from noon-2 p.m. in the Elfternoon Lunchtime Shopping events on Nov. 30 and Dec. 7 and 14.

Following a 4 p.m. kick-off party at the Portland House of Music, 25 Temple St., there will be shopping late into the night for the Merry Madness event on Dec. 8, when stores stay open until 10 p.m.. Free gift wrapping will be offered from 6-9 p.m. at the Bangor Savings Bank branch at 180 Middle St.

Admission to the kick-off party is $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Those 21 and older will receive a glass and one wine pour, and the chance to sample wines at other businesses through the evening.

To order tickets for the Merry Madness party and see lists of participating businesses for each shopping event, visit portlandmaine.com and click on the “Events” tab.

The tree lighting and Merry Madness events will include street closures.

On Nov. 25, the Federal Street Extension between Congress and Temple streets will be closed from 4:30-7 p.m. Congress Street will be closed between Preble and Elm streets from 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

On Dec. 8, Federal Street will be closed from noon-8 p.m. between Temple and Exchange streets so a tent can be set up for the Merry Madness kick-off party.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

A worker watches as other members of the crew lower Portland’s Christmans into place at Monument Square on Nov. 17. (Dan D’Ippolito / For The Forecaster)

Portland’s Christmas tree, a 40-foot blue spruce donated by David and Barbara Ripley, begins its journey to Monument Square Nov. 17 from the Ripley’s 43 Harris Ave. home. It will be lit Friday, Nov. 25. (David Harry / The Forecaster)

Shaw Brothers Construction workers guide Portland’s Christmas tree onto a flatbed truck Nov. 17 on Harris Avenue. (David Harry / The Forecaster)

The flatbed truck carrying Portland’s Christmas tree arrives at Monument Square on Thursday, Nov. 17. (Dan D’Ippolito / For The Forecaster)

Portland’s Christmas tree is hoisted from its truck at Monument Square. (Dan D’Ippolito / For The Forecaster)

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.