LIVERPOOL - As the days grow shorter and the nights long and dark, Liverpool is busy preparing to celebrate light and the joys of the season from Dec. 1–3 with Christmas on the Mersey.
Now in its fifth year, festival chairman Mark Reynolds describes the event's growth as “exponential.”
“We had 200 people the first year, and 700 people last year,” said Reynolds with pride.
Unlike many other seasonal events, Christmas on the Mersey focuses on community engagement and encouraging residents to step up and get involved.
“I have a personal commitment to growing Liverpool from the inside out,” said Reynolds. “This celebration is about our sense of ourselves and community pride.”
There's a lot to be proud of in this event. As in years past, it will commence with Mayor David Dagley lighting the Christmas tree, while the children of the Wickwire Children's Choir sing carols and the Parade of Light. Community participants will walk with candles from the Town Hall Arts & Cultural Centre along the Mersey River to the parking lot of Lane’s Privateer Inn, where they will meet with a flotilla of ceremonially-dressed members of the local Mi'kmaq community in canoes and bearing torches. There, a ceremonial fire will be lit, the Mi'kmaq Honour Song will be performed and a round dance will be led by the Native Council of Nova Scotia.
If you attend just one of the weekend's events, Reynolds says it should be Friday night's opening ceremonies.
“Their lights meet ours, and there's an interfacing of culture,” he said of the parade.
Saturday will see an assortment of dining opportunities, from breakfast at the Greenfield District Fire Department, a Kids Christmas Craft and Lunch at the Lion's Hall, and a Spaghetti Supper at the Liverpool Curling Club. In between feasting, celebrants can take in Merchant's Day by visiting all of the participating local stores downtown, attend a family skate sponsored by RBC, or seek out unique gifts at the Christmas Gift Gallery and Artisan Craft Sale. There will be carolling, and Santa Claus himself will be visiting from 1-3 at the Queens County Museum.
Also at the Queens County Museum, George Mitchell's lifelike Dickensville village will be on display, as well as the Festival of Trees, which features 30 elaborately decorated Christmas trees.
“I had someone say to me the other day that there isn't a lot retailed focused planned for the afternoon,” says Reynolds. “It (the festival) isn't about retail. It's about people's spirit.”
Christmas on the Mersey has striven to raise spirits in Liverpool, which took a hit when the Bowater paper mill closed in 2012. Since then, the community has worked hard to reinvent itself and grow, and this Christmas celebration has helped.
“Over the last couple of years, we've seen 120 people move to Liverpool. I've talked with some of them, and some of them came because they went to Christmas on the Mersey and thought, “This is a happening place! I want to be a part of that!” and now they are,” he said.
“We've had young people move here, from out West and from parts of Nova Scotia that aren't as nice as ours. They're buying properties here, they're starting businesses.”
Christmas on the Mersey creates an opportunity for the community to come out and celebrate what makes Liverpool an amazing place to live, the cultures that make them proud, and to share in the positive energy that seems to charge the air, he said.
From the 86th production of The Kiwanis Christmas Concert to the family scavenger hunt, Christmas on the Mersey blends the old with the new and provides something for everyone.
Here’s a full list of events and a description of each activity:
• Holiday Meals – Special Christmas meals in many Liverpool Restaurants all weekend.
• Scavenger Hunt - December 1-3. Register at Hell Bay Brewing Company, 902-356-3556, to get all the details. Prizes will be awarded for this family scavenger hunt.
• Festival of Trees & Dickensville – November 18- December 23rd. The Queens County Museum invites you to come in and enjoy over 30 creatively decorated Christmas trees. Try some of the fruitcake and hot cider while you are strolling around. George Mitchell has graciously displayed his lifelike village to remind us of the times of Charles Dickens and Scrooge. Admission is free and Santa will be waiting to see children Dec. 2 from 1-3 p.m.
• Christmas Food Drive – The 545 Privateer Air Cadets are parking their truck in front of the Astor Theatre from 5-7 p.m. and hope to fill the truck with food to support local families in need this season.
• Christmas Tree Lighting – 6:30 p.m. This will officially start the Christmas season. At the Town Hall Arts & Cultural Centre, under the direction of Allison Williams, the Wickwire Children's Choir will sing favourite Christmas Carols and Mayor David Dagley will light the Christmas tree. With everyone carrying a candle, the Kings Orange Rangers and the choir will lead the Parade of Light across the bridge to Lanes. Candles are for sale at Pharmachoice for $5, with proceeds being donated to the food bank. The parade will observe the traditional dressed Mi'kmaq families on their journey down the Mersey River with their torches burning high into the evening sky. The Native Council of Nova Scotia will welcome the parade to join them around the Great Fire Pit for the ceremonial lighting of the fire. The Mi'kmaq Honour Song will be performed by Mi'kmaq drummers and singers, as well as lead a Round Dance for all to join in. The Milton Canoe & Camera Club is supporting this event by supplying the torches, canoes and guides. Cookies and hot chocolate, provided by Lane’s, will be available for all to enjoy.
• Greenfield District Fire Department Breakfast – 7:30-10:30 a.m. This is a great breakfast, offering us bacon, sausages, eggs, beans and toast. Juice, coffee and tea are included in the cost of $8.
• Merchants Day – 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Visit all participating stores in the downtown to enjoy the Christmas festivities in this new event.
• Christmas Gift Gallery and Artisan Craft Sale – 10 a.m.-4 p.m., located at the Royal Canadian Legion, this craft sale will offer amazing, locally made gifts.
• Kids Christmas Craft and Lunch – 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m., this popular event for kids in Grade 1-5 will once again be held at the Lion’s Hall. Pre-register by calling PharmaChoice at 902-354-7101. Space is limited.
• Santa Claus - Bring your kids and cameras to the Queens County Museum from 1-3 p.m. Admission is free and is for all kids, young and young at heart
• RBC Family Christmas Skate - This will be held at Queens Place Emera Centre from noon-1 p.m. It is a sponsored event so admission is only a donation to the food bank. Santa’s special mailbox will be set up to receive all your letters to Santa!
• Spaghetti Dinner – This will be held at the Liverpool Curling Club at 6 p.m. Adults $10, children 10 and under $6. A cash bar will also be available.
Sunday December 3
Turkey Pot Pie Supper – This will be held at the Port Medway Fire Hall from 4-6 p.m. Price for adults is $12, $6 for children under 12. Under five years of age is free!
• Kiwanis Christmas Concert – The finale for Christmas on the Mersey will be held at the Astor Theatre at 7 p.m. This concert has been produced annually for many years and highlights local talent of all ages. Admission is $10 for adults and $6 for students. Get your tickets early, as there is reserved seating.