SKOWHEGAN — Santa Claus is coming to town.

No, really.

“Santa will be riding a firetruck, which will be sort of the caboose of the parade, as it has been at least for the last couple of years,” said Dugan Murphy, executive director of Main Street Skowhegan, a non-profit revitalization group which is organizing this year’s Holiday Stroll on Friday and Saturday.

The stroll, now in its 22nd year, begins with a parade at 7 p.m. Friday. Event organizers say the two-day kickoff to the holiday season will be more spread out and include everything from breakfast with Santa to a chili cookoff to a petting zoo.

“A lot of storefronts are hosting craft activities for kids,” Murphy said.

He said the event will include wagon rides “even though the insurance for wagon rides went up considerably” after a Halloween wagon ride crash in Mechanics Falls that took the life of Cassidy Charette of Oakland and seriously injured more than 10 others.

Murphy said his group was able to get two sponsors for the rides, the Children’s Cottage and Skowhegan Wooden Rule Company, to help defray the cost of the insurance.

Murphy said Holiday Stroll events will be more spread out this year to “make it more of a stroll” rather than concentrated in a couple of specific areas.

The parade will line up on Elm Street and then wind its way with floats and walkers in holiday garb down Madison Avenue to Water Street and end at North Avenue.

“Leading the parade this year — the marshals — will be the Skowhegan Area High School field hockey team,” Murphy said.

The field hockey team has won 12 state championships in 14 years. They won the regional title this season while using four different goalies and having only four seniors on the roster, but lost in the state championship game to Scarborough 1-0 after a disallowed Skowhegan goal.

The Bankery, on Water Street, will serve free hot cocoa before and after the parade. Murphy said so far 38 groups have signed up to march in the parade, up from 35 last year and not including groups that will sign up at the last minute.

“Holiday Stroll is really exciting this year because we have a lot of the old favorites, as well as the new exciting additions this year,” Murphy said.

On Saturday, the annual breakfast with Santa is scheduled for 8-10 a.m. at Tewksbury Hall behind the Federated Church on Island Avenue. Hight’s auto dealership on Madison Avenue will hold hip-hop dance classes Saturday morning and will give away two bicycles every hour from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Santa will hold court in the morning and early afternoon at Somerset Public Health in the former Bangor Savings Bank building next to the Chamber of Commerce. The Skowhegan Free Public Library will hold its annual holiday bazaar, bake and book sale from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with holiday songs from around the world by Buster B from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

At the chamber building there will be a bonfire, a petting zoo, a chili cook-off and performances by the Skowhegan Community Band.

Murphy said there will be free treats, hot cider and hot cocoa and the return of the talking Christmas tree at Key Appliance, which greets children via remote microphone. The Strand Cinema will host a free holiday movie on Saturday, but the title has yet to be determined.

The Sunday Project Jazz Band will perform in the Renaissance Center storefront on Water Street Saturday. Singer-songwriter Amanda Landry will perform at the Children’s Cottage. Members of the high school band will stroll around the downtown performing music.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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