SKOWHEGAN — Skowhegan’s first-ever “Whoville Stroll” was a marked success.

Turnout was in the hundreds for the Saturday event, according to Main Street Skowhegan Executive Director Kristina Cannon, who helped organize the event.

Hot chocolate was selling “nonstop” from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., according to volunteer Amanda Taylor and her daughter, Erin.

Pheobe Flows performs her flame juggling Saturday along the DeBe River Walk Trail in Skowhegan. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Children and families from across central Maine lined up at various points on the DeBe River Walk Trail to meet the Grinch, Martha May and even Max, the dog. There were also face painting and green marshmallow roasting stations, a petting zoo, a mailbox for letters to Santa, and opportunities to play games including sack races and “Pin the Heart on the Grinch.” The route started downtown at the walking bridge behind M. Thai and extended across the Kennebec River and along its bank for about three quarters of a mile in total.

Main Street Skowhegan has put on a holiday stroll for more than a quarter century, but Saturday marked the first Dr. Seuss-themed event. Previously, there had been a more general Christmas and Santa Claus theme.

“The reason we made the change is because we felt it was going for 27 years, and we thought it could use something different,” Cannon said. “Instead of having it in a parking lot like we used to, which is not very festive, we thought we’d move it to the trail.”

The change was also designed to help showcase Skowhegan’s potential as an “outdoor mecca,” Cannon added. “We wanted to showcase the river and our trails.”

The location was among the aspects of the Whoville Stroll that attendees lauded most.

“I think it’s great,” said Jada Mercier, of Skowhegan, who attended with her husband, Glenn, and children Shayne, 9, and Sylas, 3. “They did a good job. I like that they used the River Walk this year, too. It gets people exercising.”

Shayne Mercier said he “liked it because of the decorations,” which included several wooden cutouts painted with snow-capped Seuss-style houses, characters and indoor scenes.

“I think it’s cool that they used the Grinch and Whoville, too — it’s different,'” Jada Mercier added. “It’s usually just Santa. It’s a very good idea.”

Kristy Quimby, of China, said that while she had a good time Saturday, she wished there were more activities for younger kids, though she said she wasn’t quite sure what those activities could be.

Rainie Bunn, of Winslow, who was carrying a small child, and Quimby both said they enjoyed watching the stunt hula hooper, whose props were on fire in several places.

“I’d like to see her back next year,” Bunn said.

Across the Kennebec River, Main Street Skowhegan simultaneously hosted an “Elf Scavenger Hunt” Saturday, which challenged participants to find elves hidden in a number of downtown businesses for the chance to win a prize.

“The thing that stopped us from the scavenger hunt was that the prize was only two movie passes,” Bunn said. “There were so many different places you had to walk to and it’s kind of chilly to be walking that far for two movie passes. I’d rather pay for it.”

Cannon confirmed that the nonprofit will “definitely” keep the Whoville theme for its annual holiday stroll next year, reflecting on the afternoon.

“We’re just trying to figure out how to make it better next year,” she said. “It was clearly popular and people resonated with the theme.”

Cannon said she was thrilled with the turnout on a sunny day with temperatures in the mid-20s.

“We were amazed and so happy that so many people came out,” she said. “We had hundreds of people. It was so busy. So many people came out to Skowhegan to come out to the stroll and check out (Whoville). I was really pleased. It was chilly, but that didn’t seem to stop anyone.”

Other activities that were part of Saturday’s festivities included horse-drawn carriage rides downtown, breakfast with Santa at Tewksbury Hall, craft-making with National Honor Society students, cookie decorating at Santa’s Village, a festival of trees at Redington Memorial Home and, to top it off, the “Kennebec Dip” for those brave enough to take a plunge into the icy river to benefit “community projects and events,” according to the event description.

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