Wiscasset’s tree-lighting draws first-timers, regulars

Posted:  Sunday, December 3, 2017 - 7:00pm

Until Saturday night on the Wiscasset common, Erin Van de Velde, 9, and her brother and sister, twins Arthur and Kiera, 7, had never been to an American tree-lighting ceremony. They and their mother and father Freya and Jo are in the final weeks of their five-month stay in town. Home is in Belgium.

The children, each a U.S. and Belgian citizen like their mother, asked to go to the holiday event for the same reason they’ve wanted to go to others in recent months: Their Wiscasset Elementary School classmates were going, said Freya, daughter of Wiscasset’s Susan van Alsenoy.

“It was really fun, especially the songs,” Erin said about the town’s ceremony that featured music teacher Carole Drury leading a multi-grade chorus on the lit steps of First Congregational Church; Rudolph and Frosty circulating and dancing; Jeff Grosser continuing his long run emceeing; and Santa arriving before the countdown to the lighting. 

Erin has been attending fourth grade during the family’s stay that began in August and ends Dec. 30. Among other favorite parts of the evening, she and Arthur, a second grader, cited the cookies and hot cocoa inside the church after the ceremony.

The siblings’ English has greatly improved and they’ve been learning American culture, like at Saturday’s festivities; but their parents are keeping them in touch with Belgian culture. The family planned a trip to Boston to see a Christmas figure Freya said is bigger back home, Sinterklaas. He, too, wears red, but dons a bishop’s hat, she said.

This year’s tree-lighting was also the first Wiscasset one for Kianna Santos. The Bristol woman was there so son Camden Gordon, 6 months, could have the experience as part of his first Christmas. He was smiling as he watched from his mother’s arms.

Brooke Lincoln’s arms moved to the music as the WES fourth grader, 9,  and mother Kristy Lincoln watched as brother Damon, 12, a WES sixth grader, and other students sang.

Bob and Lynn Fraser of Walpole attend every year. “We wouldn’t miss it,” Lynn Fraser said while holding a leash with their English lab Charlie, a therapy dog, at the other end. She said the event is uplifting, including the children singing and Frosty being  there. Looking toward her white dog, she added, “They look alike.”