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Merry Maple celebration kicks off festive season in Amherst

  • Santa waves to the crowd from atop a fire truck during the Merry Maple holiday parade last Friday evening. About 300 turned out for the lighting of two maple trees and other events on the Town Common to kick off the holiday season.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    Santa waves to the crowd from atop a fire truck during the Merry Maple holiday parade last Friday evening. About 300 turned out for the lighting of two maple trees and other events on the Town Common to kick off the holiday season.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • The tuba section of the UMass marching band processes down Amity street during the Merry Maple holiday parade in Amherst Friday night.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    The tuba section of the UMass marching band processes down Amity street during the Merry Maple holiday parade in Amherst Friday night.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Adelaide Wolf, 5, sits atop her father Alan's shoulders for a better view of the UMass marching band as they played during the Merry Maple holiday parade in Amherst Friday night.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    Adelaide Wolf, 5, sits atop her father Alan's shoulders for a better view of the UMass marching band as they played during the Merry Maple holiday parade in Amherst Friday night.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • The tuba section of the UMass marching band processes down Amity street during the Merry Maple holiday parade in Amherst Friday night.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    The tuba section of the UMass marching band processes down Amity street during the Merry Maple holiday parade in Amherst Friday night.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Santa waves to the crowd from atop a fire truck during the Merry Maple holiday parade last Friday evening. About 300 turned out for the lighting of two maple trees and other events on the Town Common to kick off the holiday season.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • The tuba section of the UMass marching band processes down Amity street during the Merry Maple holiday parade in Amherst Friday night.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Adelaide Wolf, 5, sits atop her father Alan's shoulders for a better view of the UMass marching band as they played during the Merry Maple holiday parade in Amherst Friday night.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • The tuba section of the UMass marching band processes down Amity street during the Merry Maple holiday parade in Amherst Friday night.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

About 300 local residents braved a frosty night Nov. 30 for the annual Merry Maple tree-lighting on the town common.

This year, there are two Merry Maples in front of Town Hall thanks to the Amherst Business Improvement District, according to Tammy-Lynn Chace of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce. A crew from Comcast hung 9,600 bulbs on the maple trees, she said.

“A lot of people make this event happen,” she said. “This is a big, memory-building event.”

John Thibbitts of Atkins Farm Country Store said the store donated 600 doughnuts and 25 gallons of hot apple cider to raise funds for next year’s Merry Maple event.

Excited youngsters darted through the crowd while the Amherst Regional Middle School chorus entertained with seasonal songs under the direction of David Ranen, who has taught there for 33 years and led the chorus at more than 25 lighting events.

Anita MacDonald, who huddled with husband Michael for warmth, said they attended to hear daughter Malia, 13, sing with the chorus — as they did years ago. Anita MacDonald called Ranen “a great teacher. ”

Pastor Nate Cartel, whose Vita Nova ministry sponsored a crafts and face-painting room for children in Town Hall, attended with wife Sarah and children Kiera, 6, Xander, 4 and Charis, 20 months. Sarah Cartel said she likes the neighborly atmosphere of the event.

April and Sean Woodard-McNiff of Shutesbury brought April’s father, George Woodard, and children Bowen, 9, Kaelan, 6, and Scarlett, 3, to hear older brother Chase, 13, sing with the chorus.

“I just love living here. It’s such a great place,” April Woodard-McNiff said.

Jane Sacket of Amherst brought daughter Charlotte, 18 months, and Charlotte’s grandmother, Christine Sacket. “When I was a kid, we used to attend the Merry Maple lighting,” Jane Sacket said. “Now that I have Charlotte, I wanted her to see it.”

The Merry Maple “is a great tradition, it’s full of camaraderie and spirit,” said Ric McGinn of Amherst, who braved Friday’s chill wearing shorts to attend with Shavhan Best and their children, Wyoming, 11, and Diyala, 4.

“I don’t even notice the cold,” he said.

Carriage rides were offered by Muddy Brook Farm of Amherst.“It’s my way of giving back to the community,” said owner Barry Roberts. Roberts and Sam White drove carriages with pairs of Belgian draft horses, while daughter Kathy Roberts drove a pair of smaller Halflingers.

“I grew up on a farm and did just about everything you could do with horses,” said White. “I didn’t enjoy it then, but I’m enjoying it now.”

The University of Massachusetts Minuteman Marching Band led ceremonial sing-a-longs after the 5 p.m. lighting. Santa ended the event with his arrival on an Amherst Fire Department engine at the Amherst History Museum on Amity Street.

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