Aroostook County -  The Star City will shine even brighter than it usually does the first weekend in December when northern Maine’s largest Holiday Light Parade, sponsored by Emera Maine, and a host of other activities surrounding the annual event  are set to mark the season. 

TAMC

The Presque Isle parade on Saturday, December 6 at 6:00 p.m. always draws thousands of spectators to the Downtown for what has become a traditional kick-off to the season in The County.

Several organizations are collaborating with event host – the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce – that will expand the evening of activity, to include events throughout the weekend and surrounding/during the parade on Saturday evening.

One noteworthy change this year is concerning the parade route, which will be same as in year’s past – but run in reverse.  Rather than start at TAMC’s North Street Healthcare facility and end at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, the Parade will start at UMPI, with the annual Holiday Open House and refreshments at Gentile Hall beginning at 5:00 p.m., and the lighting of the Christmas Tree outside the President’s House as the parade starts at 6:00 p.m.  On the other end, TAMC will host the parade awards ceremony with hot cocoa and cookies inside the main lobby/walk-in clinic area as the entries make their way to North Street.

“The route was changed this year as it was getting more difficult to control traffic flow on North Street and there was concern about the safety of the organizers and participants,” said Theresa Fowler, executive director of the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce.

For the second consecutive year, the Holiday Light Parade will include the lighting of a 25 foot tall tree in front of Clukey’s Auto Supply on Main Street.  Not just any tree – but one with hundreds of lights representing survivors, family and friends of survivors, caregivers, and others who have been touched by cancer in some way.

This is the third year the Lights of Life Tree will be located on Main Street.  Two years ago the tree was placed near MPG’s Tractor Store.  Again this year, the tree will be officially lit when the parade stops briefly in front of Clukey’s.

The tree will be lit by Janet McGillan of Fort Fairfield, wife of the late Fred “JR” McGillan, who owned and operated McGillan, Inc. until he lost his battle with cancer earlier this year.  Joining Janet will be the couple’s three children 22-year-old son Shane, 19-year-old daughter Kellyn, and 11-year-old son Jared. This year’s Lights of Life program is dedicated in memory of JR McGillan.

The family will ride in a decorated piece of earth moving equipment from the family business which will be among the lead entries in the parade.  Once the parade arrives in front of Clukey’s Auto Supply, they will officially light the tree by raising the bucket on the piece of equipment to its highest point, which will signal the tree to be lit.

“The lighting of the Lights of Life Tree has been such a wonderful addition to our festivities.  We are very much looking forward to its return this year,” said Fowler.  “The Holiday Light Parade is an activity that people from all over look forward to each year.  The community tree lighting ceremony not only enhances the parade, but provides a festive feel for the community after the event is over and through the remainder of the Holiday season.  To have a beautifully lit tree in such a prominent place on our Main Street that has such a great cause behind it makes it all the more special.”

The Lights of Life Tree will not be the only tree shining bright in Presque Isle over the weekend.  An extravaganza of nearly two-dozen creatively decorated trees will fill the Presque Isle Knights of Columbus Hall on Chapman Street throughout the weekend.

The first annual Festival of Trees is a collaborative fundraising event of the K of C and the St. Apollonia Dental Clinic to benefit the pediatric dental clinic.  The event will feature a winter wonderland of donated trees, fully decorated with gift items included, to be raffled off at the close of the event on Sunday, December 7.  More than 20 businesses, organizations and individuals have registered to sponsor a tree.

Hours for the Festival of Trees are: Friday, December 5 from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.; Saturday, December 6 from 10:00 a.m. to parade start time at 6:00 p.m.; and Sunday, December 7 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

In conjunction with the activity surrounding the parade and tree lighting, several community organizations will host events and demonstrate the spirit of giving that comes with the season.  The expanded list of activities is as follows:

5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Community Holiday Event at the Presque Isle William Haskell Recreation Center on Main Street

The Community is invited to decorate cookies and enjoy hot chocolate.  In the spirit of giving, attendees to the Holiday event are encouraged to bring food and toy donations to benefit Catholic Charities and area families in need. 

5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.  - Open House at the University of Maine at Presque Isle  Before the parade, the community is invited to visit UMPI for its annual Holiday Open House at Gentile Hall and enjoy warmth and refreshments.  The University will open its doors before the Holiday Light Parade this year, providing complimentary hot cocoa, coffee and cookies. The lighting of the tree in front UMPI President’s House will signify the start of the parade. For more information, contact UMPI’s Community and Media Relations Office at 768-9452.

5:00 p.m. - Annual Open House/Parade Watching Party at Oasis Salon The public is welcome and encouraged to stop in this Main Street Business.

6:00 p.m. Parade Departs from South Entrance – University of Maine at Presque Isle, 181 Main Street, Presque Isle

6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Lights of Life Tree Lighting - Clukey’s Auto Supply

The official tree lighting event will take place as the TAMC/Clukey’s entry near the beginning of the parade arrives at Clukey’s Auto Supply.  A great place to watch the parade and see the official Lights of Life Tree Lighting.  For more information call 768-4044

6:30 p.m. Parade Awards Ceremony and Refreshments at TAMC North Street Healthcare Walk-in Clinic

The community is invited to enjoy free hot cocoa and cookies as the parade entries come in to the finish area and stick around as the parade award results are announced.  Volunteers will also be on site to accept donations in memory or in honor of a loved one for the “Lights of Life” program.  For more information, contact TAMC at 768-4044.

Special Charitable Collections/Parade Activity:

Catholic Charities of Maine Food and Donation Drive-

Volunteers with Catholic Charities Maine will collect non-perishable food and monetary donations to help Feed The County.  Watch for the Feed The County truck!

Northern Maine Community College Children’s Book Giveaway-

This marks the eleventh year the College will be distributing books to children during Presque Isle’s annual Holiday Light Parade. During last year’s parade, more than 6,500 books were collected and distributed to youth lined along both sides of Main Street. NMCC is once again collecting new and gently-used books to help put a smile on the face of children attending the holiday tradition.  Local organizations and individuals who would like to contribute to the cause are invited to drop off books at the College, located at 33 Edgemont Drive in Presque Isle. Books should be brought to the information window in the Christie lobby. To arrange to have larger quantity of books picked up, contact the college relations office at 768-2809.

Presque Isle High School Key Club Clothing Donation Collection-

Members of the Presque Isle High School Key Club will be collecting gently warn clothing items along the parade route to donate to those in need.

For more information on the 2014 Holiday Light Parade or to register an entry, contact the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce at 764-6561.