Adding to the reason for the season by collecting winter coats for seniors is just one aspect of L.L. Bean’s Northern Lights celebration, which kicks off Saturday.

The annual 6:30 p.m. tree-lighting event at Discovery Park includes a request that attendees help Maine’s elderly by bringing a gently used coat to donate.

“People come to the tree lighting with coats, and it’s become a really popular aspect of the event. We’ve collected close to 3,000 coats over the past couple of years,” said Kathy Whitney, senior public relations representative at L.L. Bean.

The community coat-collecting partnership started in 2008 and includes the Maine Triad chapters and support from the Maine Area Agencies on Aging. Drop boxes for donations will be in the flagship store’s Discovery Lobby (at the giant boot’s entrance) on Saturday and Nov. 21.

“We want to get coats to seniors early so that they have them when they need them,” said Whitney.

L.L. Bean matches every coat donated with a $5 contribution to the Keep ME Warm Campaign.

Local artist Pandora LaCasse creates a different theme for the Christmas tree lighting each year. She did the original installation of the light displays in the park in 2005 and continues to add to the design every holiday season. LaCasse plans to incorporate L.L. Bean Slope Slider Sleds on this year’s tree.

During the tree-lighting ceremony, the Boy Singers of Maine and the Musica de Filia Girls Choir will provide the music. Characters from the holiday classic “A Christmas Carol” will also make a special appearance as emcees.

But it’s not all about tree lightings at Discovery Park on Saturday. A campfire will warm you up while you enjoy some company during the afternoon.

“There’s a winter campfire all day, and L.L. Bean Outdoor Discover School experts will be on hand to answer questions about trips, listen to stories and anything else people want to know about the outdoors,” said Whitney. A variety of demonstrations, including camp cooking, as well as ski, snowshoe and sled selection tips, will be part of the campfire experience.

Horse-drawn carriage rides will give visitors a breather from shopping to explore Freeport village.

Riders will be picked up for these free rides on Main Street in front of the flagship store.

“The carriage ride is a great way for families to look at the lights around the village,” says Whitney.

There will be an imaginative playhouse experience for kids in the Enchanted Forest area every day with the award-winning wooden playhouses set up in Discovery Park.

The Northern Lights celebration continues through November and December. Storytelling and a variety of crafting opportunities for kids will be featured on weekends through December, as well as the Kids Night New Year’s Eve celebration featuring fireworks.

Whitney is looking forward to celebrating the event’s fifth year. “Northern Lights makes holiday shopping a memorable and enjoyable experience for the whole family,” she said.

Staff Writer Wendy Almeida can be contacted at 791-6334 or at:

[email protected]