A visitor to the Northern Lights holiday fair at L.L. Bean’s flagship store in Freeport on Tuesday hangs out by the Bean Boot with his dog. Luna Soley / The Times Record

L.L. Bean hired an additional 4,000 employees for the holidays this year, nearly doubling its staff. Among the many duties that holiday workforce may perform this season include sweeping the ice on the tiny swathe of curling lanes outside L.L. Bean’s flagship store in Freeport.

“The whole park was hard to maneuver on Friday and Saturday,” said Katelyn, a staff member working the curling shift yesterday. L.L. Bean’s annual Northern Lights in-house holiday fair has drawn crowds of families and passersby alike since it was first put on outside the flagship store in 2006.

The goal of Northern Lights is to “activate our purpose during the holiday season — to enable people to experience the restorative power of being outside,” said Jason Sulham, L.L. Bean spokesperson.

Two shoppers relax with a hot drink on one of the  “warming benches” outside L.L. Beans’ camping section. Luna Soley / The Times Record

The festivities opened this past Friday with a tree-lighting ceremony. This year, the campus was lit by 250,000 blue and white lights to honor victims of the Lewiston mass shooting. Lewiston’s Mayor Carl Sheline attended the ceremony.

Events are ongoing at the holiday activity barn, a 24-by-24-foot structure that still smells like pine. The barn took three days to assemble from a timber frame built in Woolwich, structural panels constructed out of recycled plastic bottles and eastern white pine boards from Western Maine. Among the events that will be held inside are tea towel screen printing, visits with Santa and custom Bean Boot lacing. Kids are welcome, as are dogs (but only on Mondays).

Outside, visitors can cradle a free hot chocolate on special warming benches or try their hand at curling.

“It’s super nice that L.L. Bean does this every year,” said Tom Zulewski, who was visiting with his family from New Jersey. “My two boys know that Santa’s coming here on Friday. The holidays are such a busy time, but coming here is peaceful. It’s not my home, but Maine’s like a home away from home.”

Northern Lights runs through Dec. 31. All events are free; a schedule can be found online at llbean.com.

Visitors can try their hand at curling on freshly swept ice outside L.L. Bean’s activity barn. Luna Soley / The Times Record

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