LEWISTON — The Holiday Festival returned Sunday evening to Lewiston, celebrating the traditions of the season and marking a return to normalcy for many attendees.

After last year’s virtual tree lighting and having been rescheduled this year due to rain, the festival brought out many excited people.

The festivities kicked off in the afternoon at Kennedy Park with a visit from Santa Claus, who brought along masks for all the boys and girls, good or bad.

The line for pictures with Santa carved out the festival’s side of the park, in the area cornered by Ash and Bates streets. Reindeer games included scoring hockey goals and throwing “cookies” into the mouth of a cardboard cutout of Santa, organized by Lewiston Recreation. In the gazebo with Santa was Rinck Advertising’s “mitten drive,” which distributed free mittens to those in attendance.

Rebbetzin Lisa Mayer, left, her husband, Rabbi Sruli Dresdner, and their children Charlie and Johnny Dresdner perform Sunday during Lewiston’s Holiday Celebration at Dufresne Plaza in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Alyssa Clark, an Auburn resident with Lewiston Recreation, was working the holiday festival for the first time.

“It’s been exciting,” Clark said. “I think (the festival) is something new for the city. We’ve been getting a good turnout all afternoon, so it’s been fun.  It’s so nice to be out here and connecting with the community.”

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Holly Long of Greene came with her husband and daughters to take their picture with Santa, smitten with the mittens they had just received.

Recent transplants from Virginia, Long and her family have been seeking to interact with members of their community since their arrival.

“This a really culturally diverse spot of Maine,” she said. “I heard about the events and the light show, and I’m really excited that we had something local.”

Samantha Trask of South Paris and her daughter, Jamie Heikkinen, 10, wait Sunday to see Santa Claus during Lewiston’s Holiday Celebration at Kennedy Park. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

At about 5 p.m., the festivities found their way to Dufresne Plaza, greeted by musical performances by Laurie Sidelinger and an African choir, and a corresponding musical light show.

Leeds resident Brando Morin’s company, FYM Entertainment & Sound Productions, organized the sound equipment and a slide show showing previous years of Lewiston and Auburn during the holiday season and the holiday festival, which has existed in different iterations for the past 20 years.

“The musicians are amazing, and there are so many more that are coming,” Morin said. “I’m really impressed already with it.”

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He and his company also put together a laser light show for the end of the festivities, following the ceremonial tree and menorah lighting.

“I think it’s awesome,” said Shannon O’Malley, who was helping to hand out coffee and Munchkins from Dunkin’. “It brings the community together and it’s something nice to do during the Christmas time.”

Maven Slaney, 3, of Lewiston climbs down from the decoratred front end loader Sunday during Lewiston’s Holiday Celebration at Kennedy Park. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

The festival, sponsored by Androscoggin Bank, was organized by the city of Lewiston’s planning committee, which focused on specific elements to make the event stand out from previous years.

“We had a planning committee and we worked for several months to try to do something really unique this year, and we came up with an event that focuses a lot on lighting and music,” said Dottie Perham Whittier, community relations coordinator for the city of Lewiston.

Last year’s festival was strictly virtual. Visits from Santa Claus and the tree lighting were just a click away. Not surprising, it failed to capture the true essence of the holiday season within the community.

“People are just really happy to get out,” Perham Whittier said. “(The planning committee) had several parents thank us for doing this for the children. It’s outside and it’s fresh air. We lucked out with the weather, and it always feels good to be together.”

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