Around Amherst: Merry Maple anchors downtown welcome to season

Staff Writer
Monday, November 29, 2021

AMHERST — A return to a live and in-person Merry Maple celebration, during which the large tree will be lit on the North Common in front of Town Hall, is set for Dec. 3.

The event, running from 4 to 6:30 p.m., starts with an open house at the Central Fire Station and wagon rides provided by Muddy Brook Farm from the Town Common.

At 4:30 p.m., the middle school chorus will sing carols in the lead-up to the 5 p.m. lighting, followed shortly after by the arrival of the UMass Minuteman Marching Band and Santa Claus.

Ann Tweedy, marketing and communications director for the Amherst Business Improvement District, said that to replace the lights on the iconic tree, the BID received a $1,000 donation from CAIA, an investment association which is moving into the former First National Bank building on Amity Street.

The ceremony is part of the Dec. 3 and 4 “Merry Days” promotion in which downtown merchants will have various versions of 20% off sales, a follow-up to what in the past had been Greeting Card Day and then Pack the Sack. Tweedy said The Toy Box, Zanna, Amherst Books and Clays are among stores that will be participating both days.

The BID is also hosting Red Ticket Month. For every $20 spent at a participating business, a customer receives a red ticket. Then, on Dec. 18 at 3 p.m. at Kendrick Park, a live drawing will award four $250 checks or cash and one $1,000 cash or check. That afternoon will feature live music and hayrides.

To kickoff the holiday season, starting on Small Business Saturday, Amherst will offer free parking each Saturday through Christmas.

Scout Christmas trees

Amherst-area Boy Scouts of America members are returning to Kendrick Park for the annual sale of Christmas trees.

The site will be open starting on Black Friday, and then on Fridays from 3 to 7 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Scouts will help trim and load the trees for customers.

Grant for history museum

Mass Humanities recently awarded a $13,000 Sustaining Humanities through the American Rescue Plan grant to the Amherst Historical Society and Museum, which will be used for programs and exhibits that reflect a diversity of views and history of all town residents.

A part-time consulting curator will be paid using the grant.

The Amherst Historical Society is an all-volunteer organization that relies on membership contributions, grants and local business sponsors to put on free events.

New online permitting and licensing

An online permitting and licensing portal powered by OpenGov is being used by the town of Amherst.

Building Commissioner Robert Morra said in a statement that the system will improve the permitting process.

“We are confident that our new technology will enhance the customer experience and streamline internal workflow for the over 4,500 permits and licenses issued annually from the inspections office alone,” Morra said.

Building, electrical, gas and plumbing permits, rental registration, health licenses, parking and fire department permits, and planning and conservation permits can be obtained in this manner. 

The portal will also benefit businesses, according to BID Executive Director Gabrielle Gould. “Providing a central online platform makes this easier and more efficient for all,” Gould said.

The new portal can be seen at: amherstma.viewpointcloud.com/.

Council on Aging

Two residents who have been working with senior citizens will be joining the Council on Aging following the ratification of their appointments by the Town Council.

Christina Scharbaai of East Hadley Road, who worked with senior citizens as a recreation assistant, is interested in addressing challenges elderly have in accessing technology, according to a memo from Town Manager Paul Bockelman. She has been a member of the town’s MLK Committee.

Karen Helfer of Lindenridge Road has been a volunteer delivering meals on wheels to seniors. Helfer brings expertise in age-related hearing loss, Bockelman wrote.

Meetings, all virtual

MONDAY: Buildings and Facilities Committee for the Jones Library, 10 a.m., and Town Council, 6:30 p.m.

TUESDAY: Community Resources Committee, 2 p.m.

WEDNESDAY: Cultural Council and Planning Board, both at 6:30 p.m.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.