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Amherst adds new touches to downtown holiday display

  • BULLETIN FILE PHOTO<br/>Members of the  Minuteman Marching Band take part in Amherst's Merry Maple holiday event. The current band will lead a homecoming parade Oct. 17. <br/>

    BULLETIN FILE PHOTO
    Members of the Minuteman Marching Band take part in Amherst's Merry Maple holiday event. The current band will lead a homecoming parade Oct. 17.
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Part of Amherst's traditional Merry Maple holiday event is entertainment by the UMass Marching Band..<br/>BULLETIN FILE PHOTO

    Part of Amherst's traditional Merry Maple holiday event is entertainment by the UMass Marching Band..
    BULLETIN FILE PHOTO Purchase photo reprints »

  • BULLETIN FILE PHOTO<br/>Members of the  Minuteman Marching Band take part in Amherst's Merry Maple holiday event. The current band will lead a homecoming parade Oct. 17. <br/>
  • Part of Amherst's traditional Merry Maple holiday event is entertainment by the UMass Marching Band..<br/>BULLETIN FILE PHOTO

More lights for the trees lit during the town’s Merry Maple celebration and new designer decorations for the light posts aim to make downtown Amherst a brighter, more festive place this December.

The town’s traditional kickoff for the holiday season begins Nov. 30 shortly after 4 p.m. at the North Common in front of Town Hall.

Organized by the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, the celebration begins with horse-drawn carriage rides, provided by Muddy Brook Farm, from Kendrick Park at the northern edge of downtown to the common.

At the common there will be hot cider and doughnuts from Atkins Farms Country Market and a performance by the Amherst Regional Middle School chorus starting at 4:30 p.m. Inside Town Hall, a room will be set up for children’s arts and crafts and face painting.

The University of Massachusetts Minuteman Marching Band will lead sing-alongs before the ceremonial lighting.

The centerpiece of the celebration, just before 5 p.m., will be the unveiling of the improved Merry Maple, said Tony Maroulis, executive director of the Amherst Chamber.

“The two trees will be lit up in a much bigger way,” he said.

The additional lighting comes from the assistance of the Business Improvement District.

The celebration concludes with a visit from Santa Claus, riding in an Amherst Fire Department engine, at the Amherst History Museum on Amity Street.

The Merry Maple will also be a drop-off location for the Toy Drive of Family Outreach of Amherst, which gives new and unwrapped toys, books, or games to Amherst children in need.

Meanwhile, the Merry Maple trees are only part of the effort to brighten downtown throughout December, as the BID commissioned an Ashfield artist to create new decorations.

“We wanted to do something that sends a message that Amherst is a vibrant place during the holiday season,” said BID Executive Director Alex Krogh-Grabbe.

The work of Nan Parati will feature translucent red, gold, yellow and orange stars that are placed over the streetlights, with garland and additional lights wrapped around the poles.

Krogh-Grabbe said these will be displayed on Main, South Pleasant, North Pleasant and Spring streets, all of which have the appropriate black ornamental light poles.

Parati, who has done design work for both the Newport and New Orleans jazz festivals, handled the holiday decorations in Greenfield. Maroulis said he had seen those a year ago and was impressed by their beauty and the fact that they are “appropriately non-denominational.”

“They felt like Christmas, but also welcoming to those who are not Christian,” Maroulis said. “They were just a lot of fun.”

Maroulis said Mina Lussier, the owner of Zanna, and Tammy-Lynn Chace, membership and events manager at the Chamber, are working with Parati to get the decorations installed.

The day after the Merry Maple celebration will be the annual Greeting Card Day, sponsored by the Daily Hampshire Gazette, in which customers will be able to use a card inserted into the Nov. 30 Amherst Bulletin to get 20 percent discounts on merchandise and gift certificates at stores and restaurants.

Parking will be free throughout downtown on Greeting Card Day, as well as this Saturday, which is Small Business Saturday. On Saturdays throughout December, parking in all lots that use pay-by-space machines will also be free of charge, including the Boltwood parking garage, the municipal lot next to the CVS Pharmacy parking lot, the Town Hall parking lot and the Main, Spring and Amity street lots. The Select Board Monday approved these requests from the Chamber.

“This is a nice gift from the town and much appreciated,” Maroulis said.

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