You better watch out and you better not cry, because this weekend, Santa Claus is coming to town — three times over! Brunswick and Bath families will rejoice as the big man in the red suit will stop in our region, visiting with families on Saturday and Sunday, and you won’t want to miss it! Even for the non-kids, there is still a little bit of magic seeing hopeful young dreamers experiencing Santa.

Santa coming to town is just one piece of good news I wanted to share this week as we head into our first of several holiday weekends. Holidays can be a high-stress time, but they’re also full of great moments and great opportunities to connect with family and those in your community. Below are several little morsels of opportunity for you to engage in local holiday happenings. The good stuff is out there, if you look for it.

Santa highlights this weekend

We’re very fortunate that Santa has made so much time in his busy holiday schedule to carve out three appearances this weekend for Midcoast families. His first stop will be in downtown Brunswick at the Brunswick Downtown Association’s Annual Tree Lighting. On Saturday, Nov. 26, families can enjoy hot cocoa, cookies and ice carving from 2-5 p.m. Rides on the Polar Express Bus start at 2 p.m., and Santa arrives with Frosty the Snowman by fire truck at 2:30 p.m. — children can visit with Santa in the gazebo from then on. At 3 p.m., the Una Voce Chamber Choir performs, and the Brunswick High School chorus takes the stage at 4 p.m. That all leads up to the tree lighting around 5 p.m.

Santa’s second stop is over in Bath. He’ll jet over for the Santa’s Arrival event at Library Park on Washington Street beginning magically at 5 p.m. Main Street Bath’s huge multi-week event, An Old-Fashioned Christmas, kicks off with his arrival. The gazebo in Library Park will be loaded with families as Santa and Mrs. Claus light the community tree, donated by Jorgenson Landscaping. The Nor’easters Barber Shop Chorus will be on hand for caroling.

Finally, on Sunday, Nov. 27, Santa makes an indoor stop as he hears what children want for Christmas at the Midcoast Tree Festival. Held in the St. John’s Community Center (43 Pleasant St., Brunswick), Santa will arrive that morning and visit with any child who wants to share their Christmas lists and wishes. The doors open at 10 a.m., and Santa is expected to arrive between 10:30 and 11 a.m. and stay until noon.

Whether it’s outside in Brunswick and Bath on Saturday or inside on Sunday at the Tree Festival, there are plenty of chances to catch Santa this weekend.

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Giving it back

Over the first weekend of the Midcoast Tree Festival, I caught up with many of the volunteers. One particular couple who have volunteered in the past shared a story with me, and it’s a good one. The wife told me that her husband had just been through a miracle of sorts. They had gone to the hospital for a persistent sore throat several times — the husband just felt something wasn’t right. It turned out that it was a rare form of cancer in another part of his body that they never would have found without his persistence. Thankfully, it was caught early enough, and treatments have gone well, so his prognosis is good. When the wife asked about volunteering this year, the husband said he was so grateful that he wants to give back as much as he can. They have signed up for shifts for all six days of the event.

Protecting your time

As you can imagine, a major event like the Midcoast Tree Festival forces a chamber director (like me) to focus on this, and only this, for about 10 days. That means putting other requests and other projects on hold. It means I have to say “no’” sometimes — and I hate saying no.

A friend asked me to attend a meeting yesterday, and I told her I could probably make it. It was with a group I had been wanting to speak with, but I had planned a couple of days off midweek to recharge after working all weekend. Still, I told her, if she needed me there, I would be there. She responded very kindly and sternly: “No, you need to protect your days off.”

I’m truly thankful for that. We’re at times our own worst enemies, and it’s nice that others will protect us when we won’t make ourselves a priority.

1,000 smiles

If you get a chance this Friday, Saturday or Sunday, stop by the MTF. Grab a warm drink from the cocoa bar and find a spot to people-watch — it’s incredible. I witnessed dozens of small kindnesses this past weekend, from parents helping grandparents read the prize lists, to grandparents dumping their tickets into trees for Pokémon gifts that their grandchildren will love. We have a Boy Scout named Gregory who has helped us every day, including the two set-up days — he likes to be a greeter to tell people how they can win. We did videos with kids telling us about their favorite tree; one child did a video for his second-favorite tree because he didn’t want people putting tickets in for his favorite tree. There are stories of proud artists showing off their newly made children’s craft projectsl proud parents watching their children perform in the youth orchestra, ecstatic glee of petting a snake during the animal demonstration, the homemade goodness of the bake sale, and strangers picking up tickets and giving them back to those who dropped them and so much more.

There will be more memory-making this weekend, right up through year’s end — don’t miss it. The good stuff is out there, if you look for it. I hope this holiday weekend you find some of those moments for yourself.

Cory King is executive director of the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber of Commerce.

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