Participants of Kennebunkport’s hat parade sport Christmasthemed hats in this Dec. 6, 2014 file photo. The parade is part of the town’s annual Christmas Prelude festival. This year’s parade will be this weekend.

Participants of Kennebunkport’s hat parade sport Christmasthemed hats in this Dec. 6, 2014 file photo. The parade is part of the town’s annual Christmas Prelude festival. This year’s parade will be this weekend.

KENNEBUNKPORT — The lights are hung, the trees are decorated, and people from all around are beginning to descend on Kennebunkport for the 34th annual Christmas Prelude.

The two-week festival celebrates the holiday season with a variety of events and activities for all ages, beginning Wednesday, Dec. 2 and running until Sunday, Dec. 13. Locals and visitors will fill the village for festive parades, caroling, community meals, live music, holiday markets and lots of other Christmas merriment.

Well into its fourth decade, the Prelude attracts national attention to the small seaside village. The festival was named the No. 2 Christmas Town in America by Home and Garden Television, as well as making Yankee magazine’s list of the top 10 best Christmas celebrations in New England.

Many visitors come from far and wide for Kennebunkport’s distinctive village charm.

“There may not be snow, but it’s beautiful this time of year. It looks like a little Dickens village – a postcard,” said Isabelle Julien, owner of Mornings in Paris. Her café will be serving up chocolat chaud, a French take on hot chocolate, in celebration of Prelude.

The festival opened Wednesday night at the Nonantum Resort with a dinner theater performance of scenes from “The Nutcracker,” performed by students from River Tree Arts Center. Tina Gordon, general manager at the Nonantum, mentioned the Prelude’s ability to stay rooted in the community throughout its growth. “Kennebunkport is this quintessential village where everywhere you turn, there’s Christmas cheer, and lot’s of giving back, and an appreciation of the wonders that we have here.”

On Saturday, Dec. 5, at 3 p.m., the 10th annual Hat Parade steps off at Dock Square, when community members march through town sporting elaboratelydecorated, holiday-themed headpieces. Jean Betses, owner of The Village Paperie and longtime parade leader, expects to fill the streets. “I love it,” she said. “It makes me laugh. I love the idea that something that was thrown out at a town meeting years ago has turned into something that has about three or four hundred people in it, and people get such joy and pleasure out of doing it.”

The Prelude will also feature open studios, tours of local historic sites, treelighting ceremonies both in Dock Square and Cape Porpoise, caroling, and craft fairs. On Sunday, Dec. 6, at 2 p.m., Santa Claus himself will be arriving at Prelude by Lobster Boat.

The festival is produced by the Kennebunk Business Association, a volunteer organization of business owners in Kennebunkport, Cape Porpoise and Kennebunk’s Lower Village. The festival began in 1982 as a way for business owners to thank the local community for supporting them throughout the year. The 12 days of Prelude offer a significant extension to the tourist season for local businesses. Yet the festival remains a community event, entirely powered by volunteers. Betses, a KBA board member, attributes the continued success of the festival to the volunteer effort.

“We decorate the entire town;” she said, “the bridge, the tree, the poles … the whole thing is done by volunteers. It’s all because we love Prelude, and Prelude is how we give back to town.”

For a full schedule of events for Kennebunkport’s Christmas Prelude, please visit www.christmasprelude.com.

— To contact Christian Letourneau call 282-1535.


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