GARDINER — Kacie Hussey’s son Finn stood rapt for nearly a half-hour Saturday on Water Street in Gardiner.

Just after dark fell, the lights and action picked up as Gardiner’s Parade of Lights got underway. It was just one of the holiday celebrations to light up communities across central Maine on Saturday.

The parade drew entrants from local businesses, churches, Ampersand Academy of Dance and Performing Arts, the Maine Strawberry Pageant and organizations such as the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts and the Boys and Girls Club of Kennebec Valley. The Gardiner Area High School Robotics Team took home top honors with its Santa Claus and candy robots that zipped and veered around the parade route. Firetrucks from fire departments in Pittston and Farmingdale also took part, and Gardiner’s ladder truck was pressed into service to bring Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus to town.

But more than anything, the parade drew hundreds of people from the very young to the very old to Gardiner from across the region as the holiday season picks up steam.

Seasonal celebrations lit up a number of communities across central Maine on Saturday.

Craft and holiday fairs brought people to schools, service clubs and churches in Augusta, Gardiner, Pittston, Waterville and Winthrop.

Santa Claus made appearances in Monmouth, Chelsea and Winthrop throughout the day.

In Winthrop, the 33rd Annual Winthrop Holiday Parade started rolling through downtown on Main Street just before dark. It was just one event in a daylong schedule that included craft fairs, a pie sale, and an expected performance by the Winthrop Area Hand Bell Ringers. And in the evening, the Kennebec Performing Arts Company hosted its holiday concert at the Performing Arts Center at Winthrop High School.

In Chelsea, the town would celebrate its first-ever tree lighting following a public supper at the Chelsea Elementary School.

“This was a surprise for him,” Kacie Hussey said, referring to her son. “We just found out about it.”

Finn, 6, was impressed by his haul of candy tossed to the crowd by parade participants, and he wasn’t shy about saying it was his favorite part.

Gardiner’s parade is part of its monthlong Days of Light celebration, which started Friday with a tree lighting and bidding on trees donated by local businesses and organizations at the Festival of Trees at Johnson Hall, along with an Art Walk and a Cookie Walk.

As they waited for the parade to begin, dozens wandered through Gardiner’s stores and restaurants.

Every year in the weeks leading up to Christmas, Jennifer and Jacob Fongemie and their daughter Rachel, 9, take in holiday celebrations around the area. Every Saturday, the Augusta family tours the area in search of holiday light displays; and on Saturday, they added the Gardiner parade to the mix.

“I grew up in East Winthrop,” Jacob Fongemie said. “I’ve always liked small towns.”

Taking Rachel to the Gardiner parade gives her a flavor of small-town life, Jennifer Fongemie said.

As the floats and marchers were lining up before the parade, Rachel said she hoped for candy to be tossed as it is during the Independence Day parade in Augusta, and it was.

After watching her son pick up the last of the scattered candy canes and Tootsie Rolls, Hussey said they’ll may put a Christmas tree up on Sunday and start some holiday shopping.

And when the holiday seasons returns next year, she said, they’ll be back in Gardiner for the parade.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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