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NANTUCKET CHRISTMAS STROLL TURNS 40

The instigators of the original Nantucket Christmas Stroll were merely trying to prevent islanders from escaping to Cape Cod, 30 miles across the Sound, to do their holiday shopping.

Rewind to 1973, a year when local merchants, in an effort to boost the island's holiday "purse", kept shops open late the first Friday in December, inviting locals to Christmas shop on-island.  That initial Stroll, christened by merchants as a "Christmas Shoppers Stroll"--a mere three hours in duration--was proclaimed a resounding success.  Shopkeepers plied shoppers with wine, hot chocolate, tea, mulled cider, fruitcake and holiday cookies while they perused crafts, books, clothes and wares, and other seasonal gift items.  In subsequent years, the event grew exponentially, drawing larger crowds until it became a nationally--and ultimately, internationally-renowned event.

This year's Stroll, themed "A Victorian Christmas", will feature 160 seven-foot holiday trees decorated in Victorian fashion, and sporting new, energy-saving LED lights sponsored by ReMain Nantucket mounted throughout the downtown area.  Local artists Deb Sosebee and Donna Elle will decorate the 20-foot "Magical Talking Tree" (Saturday, 1-3 PM) with homemade Victorian-style ornaments. Visitors are encouraged to participate in a Victorian Costume Contest, with winners receiving their ribbons on the Main Street Stage just before 2 PM.

Once again, the Nantucket Whaling Museum will be transformed into a glittering winter wonderland, with the December month-long Festival of Trees showcasing more than 80 uniquely crafted trees designed by local merchants, non-profit organizations, artists and children.

In addition to its longstanding traditional events, the Nantucket Chamber of Commerce has announced weekend highlights and new activities on Stroll Saturday (unless otherwise indicated) including:  the sale of 40th Annual Stroll merchandise--including hats, pins and ornaments--at the Chamber Merchandise Table (9 AM-3 PM); Storefront and Tree Decorating Contests, People's Award (10 AM-1:30 PM); 3rd Annual European Christmas Marketplace (10 AM - 3 PM); Elementary School Art Show (10 AM-4 PM); eclectic entertainment on the Main Street Stage, Nantucket Atheneum and Jared Coffin House (10 AM-5 PM); Santa Claus Parade, heralded by a brass quintet (12:15 PM); Nantucket Sleigh Ride (12:30- 2PM); Nantucket Safe Harbor for Animals featuring pets in costume; and Main Street Stroll Scavenger Hunt (throughout the weekend.)

"Over four decades, Christmas Strolls were enhanced and improved upon ," noted PJ Martin Smith, executive director of Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce, "but the holiday spirit pervaded each of the last 39 Strolls, from the seminal event organized by Anne Kronenberg four decades ago to the Stroll we look forward to the weekend of December 6-8.  The entire island community comes together in the spirit of fellowship to welcome boatloads of visitors from around the world."

Indeed, this may prove to be the most joyous and exciting Christmas Stroll thus far.

For additional information about Christmas Stroll Weekend, visit the Chamber's dedicated Stroll event page at www.nantucketchamber.org, or call the office at 508-228-3643.