A float built to look like a giant Radio Flyer wagon is Waterfront Nutrition’s entry Saturday evening in the Parade of Lights in downtown Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

GARDINER — While dozens of Parade of Lights participants finalized work Saturday evening on their floats, making sure their hundreds of colorful lights worked, the generators to power them were gassed up and holiday decorations were hung with care.

Margo Bailey and Rob Davis spun silver garland around their 5-year-old daughter, Preston Bailey-Davis, who wanted to add some holiday flair to her outfit while waiting for the parade to make it past their spot alongside Water Street.

The family from Whitefield already had its Christmas tree at home decorated and lighted, but did not have decorations to fulfill Preston’s request. So the family crossed Water Street before the annual parade through downtown Gardiner and bought silver garland at Family Dollar, adding it to Preston’s red and white Santa Claus hat and Christmas tree-themed glasses in time to join hundreds of others in watching the parade.

“We came to it a couple of years ago and it was wonderful, so we wanted to come back,” Bailey said of the parade that parade co-coordinator Kathy Brown said had about 45 entries, nearly all of them with some form of working holiday lights on floats or on parade marchers themselves.

Santa Claus waves Saturday evening from the back of the Gardiner Fire Department ladder truck during the Parade of Lights in downtown Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Preston said her favorite part of Christmas is decorating the tree, and she looked forward to seeing decorated trees in the parade, of which there were many.

Gardiner Elks Lodge 1293’s float, built on a trailer that is used in summer parades by the Hallowell Community Band, featured a decorated tree, a snowman and hundreds of blinking or flashing lights hung from hoops that topped the float.


A Parade of Lights participant carries a candy cane Saturday evening while marching through downtown Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Tim Cusick, a trustee with the Elks Lodge, said planning for the float began about three weeks ago, and many members gathered Saturday morning to put it all together.

With so many lights, Cusick said, not all of them worked. After four hours or so of assembling the decorations and finding the nonworking light bulbs, members of the Elks Lodge were ready for the parade, with two generators in the back of a pickup truck to power the many lights.

“A group of lodge members chipped in today,” Cusick said. “We always love to be part of events like this.”

A float sponsored by Waterfront Nutrition was decorated as a giant red Radio Flyer wagon, and filled with also-giant toys, including five-gallon buckets painted to look like Play-Doh cans, a painting set and a Rubik’s Cube.

Brooklyn Dufour, dressed as the cowboy character from the movie “Toy Story,” said planning for the float began around Thanksgiving and work on the float, which also featured lights and music, consumed much of the week preceding the parade.

Two groups of local students — Hall-Dale’s Delta Prime Robotics and Iron Tigers Gardiner Robotics Team — drove remote control robots in the parade, each of them decorated and lighted for the holidays, drawing cheers from the large crowd lining both sides of Water Street.


The Parade of Lights makes its way Saturday evening down Water Street in downtown Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Several church groups took part, including South Gardiner Baptist Church, whose members had built a wooden gingerbread house atop a flatbed trailer that Pastor Keith Hilton said several members worked several nights to build.

While many parade participants passed out candy to spectators, the group from the Baptist church passed out handmade Christmas ornaments with a message inside that read, “The Sweetest Gift is Jesus.”

The Delta Prime Robotics 4-H Team team marches behind its decorated robots Saturday evening during the Parade of Lights in downtown Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Hundreds of children waited anxiously for the half-hour parade to begin, then watched as decorated cars, trucks, all-terrain vehicles and marchers paraded past, culminating in Santa Claus waving and wishing them merry Christmas and happy holidays from the back of Gardiner Fire Department’s ladder truck.

The parade also included members of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, including girls singing “Jingle Bell Rock” as they walked and waved to the crowd.

The parade was one of many holiday-related activities in Gardiner over the weekend. Christ Church and Laura E. Richards Elementary School held craft and other handmade goods fairs Saturday, Gardiner Rotary held its annual Christmas tree sale off Main Avenue, Johnson Hall’s 6th annual Festival of Trees took place at Life Community Church on Church Street and, before the parade, Mrs. Claus read stories to children at the Winter Market on Water Street.

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