CHATHAM – Some changes are in store for this weekend's 39th annual Christmas By The Sea, but the essence of the event – a celebration of community in the holiday spirit – will remain the same.
“All of the traditions of the past 38 years will be in place,” said Jenn Allard of the Chatham Merchants Association, which is sponsoring the three-day event. “We're just trying to make it a little more special.” A change in location for the annual tree lighting and a special “winter fest” on Saturday are among the highlights.
The move of Friday evening's annual tree lighting from Sears Park to Kate Gould Park is a major change. For the past few years, Allard said, the tree put up in the Sears Park triangle has been on the small side, and the Merchants Association wanted something a bit more impressive.
So the association purchased and planted a 12-foot “forever tree” in Kate Gould Park, which will now serve as the town Christmas tree. As time goes by, Allard said, it will continue to grow and be the focus of the annual tree lighting.
On Friday, a light process will gather at the parking lot at Carmine's Pizza and Santa will lead the crowd to Kate Gould Park, where there will be caroling with the Chatham Elementary School Chorus and storytelling during the annual tree lighting ceremony, beginning at 6 p.m. Santa will take up residence in his new workshop in the bandstand – previously it was in the information booth on Main Street. He'll be there from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday and again on Saturday from noon to 2 p.m.
From 6 to 9 p.m., Main Street will be the scene of much holiday merriment with carolers, musicians and storybook and movie characters strolling up and down the street. Horse-drawn hayrides will return this year, also running from 6 to 9 p.m. Most shops will be open with seasonal refreshments and many will offer raffles and holiday sales. The street has been decked out with dozens of Christmas trees decorated by downtown merchants.
Saturday begins with the First Congregational Church's annual Christmas Cookie Express, which pulls into the Main Street church next to the downtown rotary at 8:30 a.m., A smorgasbord of sweet baked treats will be available to purchase by the pound, with proceeds from the sale benefiting the Lower Cape Outreach Council. Containers will be available at the sale. Baked by church members, some of the cookies represent old family recipes while others reflect recent themes and trends (shark cookies were big last year). The cookies are often all gone within an hour or so, so come early to enjoy the widest selection.
Santa will also host a breakfast at the Chatham Wayside Inn at 8:30 a.m. Tickets are $12 for kids, $18 for adults, and can be purchased online at www.chathammerchants.org/christmas-by-the-sea.
All day Saturday the stroll continues with raffles, open houses and holiday refreshments in most shops. There will be entertainment up and down Main Street featuring musicians and storybook characters.
The day will feature a “mini-winter fest,” Allard said. Along with Santa in his workshop at Kate Gould Park from noon to 2 p.m., there will be face paintings and other events in the park from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Food and Devil's Purse beer will be available in the parking lot adjacent to the park.
“We're just trying to keep people downtown, in the restaurants and the shops all day, so we're offering a little more incentive,” she said of the events. The “Holly Trolley” will run from noon to 3 p.m. between the community center and Kate Gould Park so folks don't have to spend part of their day searching for parking.
A holiday scavenger hunt will run through Dec. 31. Scavenger hunt booklets can be picked up at the Chatham Orpheum Theater.
The theater is also one of several locations selling limited edition Chatham Christmas stroll hat. Last year's hat sold out, Allard noted, and more were made this year, “but they're still pretty limited,” she said. Get them for $20 at the Orpheum, Chatham Clothing Bar, Chatham Cookware, Threadworks, Mahi Gold, the Mayflower Shop, and online at www.chathammerchants.org/2017-chatham-stroll-hats/.
Elsewhere in town, the Caleb Nickerson Homestead will host its 14th annual Holiday Open House on Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. sponsored by the Nickerson Family Association. There will be inviting fires in the hearth and light refreshments from Victorian recipes prepared by the Chatham Filling Station Diner. Books and holiday items will be on sale in the gift shop. The Homestead is located at 1107 Orleans Rd. in North Chatham.
The Atwood House and Museum will feature “Grub with the Grinch” Saturday morning at 9 a.m. Tickets are $10 for kids, $15 for adults, and reservations can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Santa's Workshop will be open from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Stage Harbor Road museum. Kids can get their photo taken with Santa and leave food items for the Family Pantry of Cape Cod in an antique sleigh recently added to the museum's collection.
The Chatham Candy Manor is also selling its “Generous Indulgence” gift packages of a special assortment of chocolates to benefit the Family Pantry. Half of the $20 costs goes directly to the pantry.
For those interested in getting a close-up glimpse of the holiday decorations at local inns, the annual Chatham Historic Inn Tour opens the doors to some of the town's most most elegant accommodations from 1 to 4 p.m. at on Saturday. Sponsored by the Chatham Merchants Association and Chatham Lodging Association, the tour will include the following inns: Chatham Gables Inn, Chatham Wayside Inn, Chatham Inn at 359 Main, Captain's House Inn, and the Carriage House Inn. Tickets are $20 and available at participating inns as well as the Cape Cod Five Cent Savings Bank Chatham branch, Puritan Cape Cod Chatham store, Rockland Trust Bank Chatham branch, and the Captain Bassett Visitors Center at 2377 Main St. in South Chatham.
On Sunday Santa the Chatham Shark Center will hold a special Story Time with Santa, who will read to children as they enjoy cookies, hot cocoa and holiday cheer. Tickets at 10 per person (both adults and children must have a ticket) and the event starts at 11 a.m. at 235 Orleans Rd. Open houses and refreshments continue in many downtown businesses.