Correction: An earlier version of this story had the incorrect date for the event. It was an editing error.

AUGUSTA –Holiday revelers will get the chance to be Santa for needy area residents or pets at the city’s holiday tree lighting on Saturday, which will include everything from horse-drawn wagon rides to fireworks.

The annual holiday festivities on Water Street get under way downtown at 2 p.m. and will include crafts, live performances by dancers, trolley and horse-drawn wagon rides and an opportunity for kids to visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

The holiday tree lighting on the river front at 5 p.m., the party will wrap up with fireworks over the Kennebec River at 5:15.

“It’s the kickoff to the holiday season for this area, and it gets people to downtown Augusta to experience what it’s all about,” said Bruce Chase, the city’s recreation director. “It’s a fun atmosphere.”

New this year is a chance for attendees to give. There will be a giving/sharing tree at 339 Water St., the former home of CJ’s Pizza, where people can leave a non-perishable food item for people or pets. The donated food will be given to food banks and thelanimal shelter.

Santa and Mrs. Claus are expected to arrive at 2:30 p.m. in a horse-drawn wagon escorted by a fire truck. After their arrival they’ll head to Santa’s castle in the former federal building at 295 Water St., where they will talk and pose for photographs with kids.

Chase said volunteers with Hallmark for ME have been working all week to transform the federal building for the event.

“They’ve been decorating for us and been working on it all week long,” Chase said. “It will truly look like a castle. It’ll be like walking into Santa’s living room.”

Kids’ crafts, such as decorating cards, will take place from 2-4:30 p.m for kids age 6-12 at Riverback Dance Club and kids 3-5 at 339 Water St.

The blocks between the Peachey Building and Market Square will be closed to traffic. That Market Square entertainment starts at 4:15 p.m. and includes Central Maine Twirlers, Dance Unlimited and Kennebec Dance Center routines. The parking lot by the Peachey Building will be accessible for motorist to use.

Trolley and horse-drawn wagon rides start at 2 p.m. and will take participants on a loop around downtown, starting at Key Plaza.

There will be hot chocolate and face painting at Bar Harbor Bank and Trust from 2-5 p.m.

And, across the river, Old Fort Western joins in the festivities from 2-4:30 p.m. with hot chocolate and mulled cider by a fire, paper cutting, a reading of “The Night Before Christmas,” and carolers singing traditional songs from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Augusta Downtown Alliance volunteers will be in costume, including elves, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and the Grinch.

Vendors selling items, but all the events will be free.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]