The Wonderment of Christmastime Descends over Rockland Harbor

The Wonderment of Christmastime Descends over Rockland Harbor
Gingerbread house

A festive gingerbread scene graces a Rockland storefront during the Festival of Lights (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

As Thanksgiving Day drew to a close on November 25th and the aroma of turkey, stuffing and pies was taking flight on the evening’s crisp air, a delightful anticipation was building along Maine’s Rockland Harbor for the annual Festival of Lights event and all the wonderment it ushers in each year with gleaming fashion.

When the Festival of Lights illuminates the streets of this tradition-laden harbor town, the event does much more than mark the start of Christmastime – it also speaks to the hearts and dreams of this seaside community.

The weekend celebration uses the power of light, togetherness and a genuine warmth for each other to inspire the child in all of us as only the Christmas holiday can.

Festival of Lights, which is sponsored by Rockland Main Street, Inc., kicked off this year in jolly fashion on November 26th with the arrival of Santa brought ashore by a Coast Guard boat at the Public Landing along Rockland Harbor.

After disembarking, the man in the red suit headed up to his little workshop on the corner of Main Street to begin greeting wide-eyed children who were all too ready to share their gift wishes with him and officially begin dreaming of that night on December 24th when Santa takes flight and visits their home.

Rockland's lobster trap tree

Rockland's lobster trap tree shines bright for the harbor's lobstering heritage and the City's community spirit (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Friday evening, the community’s attention shifted to the Mildred Merrill Park overlooking historic Rockland Harbor where the City’s seafaring roots and the spirit of Christmas rose high in the sky on the shoulders of lobster traps that were carefully stacked and decorated by a group of hardy volunteers.

The results of this volunteer effort yielded a stunning lobster trap tree, which is a relatively new Rockland tradition that started in 2003, but one that promises to carry on well into the future based on its amazing appeal and the community pride that it inspires. Rockland Main Street, Inc., notes, “Lobstering and the working waterfront is Rockland’s heritage and what makes our community authentic and salty. We are proud to celebrate this heritage each year with our lobster trap tree.”

Rockland’s lobster trap tree is constructed with 152 traps, each weighing 40 pounds. The traps are built specifically for this seasonal creation by Brooks Trap Mill in Thomaston.

According to Rockland Main Street, Inc., “a special engineering plan allows the height to tower to 30 feet.” In addition, “each traps is outfitted with a red door to help with the festive look, and 480-feet of garland is used to decorate the tree along with 125 lobster buoys that are brought to the tree by lobstering families. The tree is lighted from the inside and contains twinkle lights that wrap around the garland. The final topper is a 5-foot fiberglass lobster that reigns over the tree for the holiday season.”

With the community gathered around the base of the lobster trap tree on the evening of November 26th, all the while enjoying cookies and cocoa, they watched as the switch was flipped and the tree was illuminated by strings of lights – an occasion that warms the heart no matter how cold or damp the weather might be at this time of year.

Main Street in Rockland, Maine

Many people enjoyed horse-drawn carriage rides on Rockland's Main Street during the Festival of Lights (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

The arrival of Santa and the lighting of the lobster trap tree gave way the following day to visitors filling Main Street and its shops, while enjoying the many different festivities being offered, including horse-drawn carriage rides and holiday crafts for children.

Storefronts beckoned shoppers with gleaming lights, decorations and gingerbread houses despite wind chills in the low 20s. As bundled up as the crowds were in the cold air, the chill could not douse the warmth created by the spirit of the Festival of Lights – a feeling of warmth that was enhanced by many people holding and sipping steaming hot coffee or cocoa from local bakeries and eateries as they walked along downtown.

The magical aspect of light is always revealed best when nightfall settles in, for the darker it grows, the more prominent the wonderment and feeling of warmth light exudes, especially when light is combined with Christmastime.

As the sun set on the evening of November 27th, hundreds of children and adults young at heart began lining Main Street in anticipation for the popular Festival of Lights parade that features creative and artistic floats decked out for the holidays and the wintry season.

Festival of Lights

The Historic Inns of Rockland placed a delightful holiday float in the Festival of Lights parade (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

The floats carried not only a theme of Christmas but also appropriately costumed participants who brought life to an amazing array of creative ideas. Even the United States Coast Guard showed their holiday spirit with a finely decorated boat courtesy of Station Rockland.

Of course, no holiday parade could be complete without the star of the show and the Festival of Lights parade was no different. Saving the best for last, the parade featured Santa Claus riding in a horse-drawn carriage waving to all the onlookers and setting the stage for a harbor community to prepare for the joyous celebration of another Christmas season together.

Speaking of togetherness, this is what makes Rockland’s Festival of Lights so special. The event does so much more than kick-off the holiday season – it also inspires the best the seaside community has to offer in both rich tradition and neighborly kindness – “lights” that never grow dim!

Santa Claus

Santa waves to onlookers during the Festival of Lights parade (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

U.S. Coast Guard boat

U.S. Coast Guard Station Rockland decorated one of their boats for the Festival of Lights parade (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Lobster Festival float

The Rockland Lobster Festival placed their giant lobster in the Festival of Lights parade (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Lobster trap tree topper

A 5-foot fiberglass lobster tops the Rockland lobster trap tree (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Rockland lobster trap tree

Rockland's lobster trap tree overlooks Rockland Harbor (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Holiday spirit

Shoppers were treated to festive storefronts that included a wide range of holiday gift items (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Lobster trap tree

A close-up view of the intricately-built and decorated lobster trap tree (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Christmas cookies

An enticing display of Christmas cookies graced a local bakery's storefront during Festival of Lights (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Santa's workshop

Children and parents wait in line to talk with Santa at his workshop on Rockland's Main Street (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Santa's workshop

A decidely lobstering decor adorns a side of Santa's workshop (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Holiday traffic sign

Visitors to Rockland's Main Street could find their way around town during Festival of Lights thanks to a holiday "traffic sign" (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)