OLD SAYBROOK - Two annual events herald the approaching holidays in Old Saybrook: the 25th annual Winter Stroll on Main Street from 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 6 and the Torchlight Parade at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14.
Looking for interesting and unusual Christmas gifts? The Main Street businesses are offering deals and promotions during this special evening of shopping and fun. About 30 stores along Main Street will be open for business that evening.
Each offers a special promotion or treat. At Cartiers, a caricature artist will set up shop. Saybrook Hardware has free popcorn. And on the Town Green, the Lions Club will be giving out cups of free hot chocolate and candy canes. Free balloons will be offered at the Flower Shop, while Dagmar's and Maximus Antiques will have free samples of holiday treats and drinks to try.
The Paint Shop will let visitors take a chance to win a framed print of the Outer Light. Sweet Luna's will have balloon twisters. Dancers from the Eastern Connecticut Ballet company will also appear at Sweet Luna's, Azul Fine Clothing, and the Paperback Café.
The event kicks off at 5:30 p.m. at the Town Green with a musical performance of Christmas carols sung by the town's youngest stars, the preschool students of My Second Home. Horse-drawn wagon rides along Main Street also begin then. Two horse-drawn wagons will make the one-way trip either from the Town Green to Saybrook Country Barn or the reverse direction.
Santa will also be waiting that evening at the Town Green to hear from the youngest residents about their wishes for the holiday season.
The Torchlight Parade
Marchers in the Torchlight Parade will step off at Coulter Street and Main Street at 6 p.m. on Dec. 14.
More than 20 different fife and drum corps hailing from as far away as Pennsylvania and Vermont will gather at the Liberty Bank parking lot before marching down Main Street to the Town Green. Leading the musician groups will once again be the 2nd Company Governor's Foot Guard marching unit (pictured).
The marching musicians, dressed in period costumes, will play musical selections that their counterparts might have played more than 100 to 200 years ago. Alongside each corps will be parade volunteers who will carry torches to light the way.
As in past years, Wilcox Energy of Westbrook will donate the fuel for the parade torches.
In addition to the musicians, more than 20 floats and other marching units plan to participate in the parade.
Parade organizers Sandy and Barry Clark and Ken and Chris Reid-with guidance from longtime organizer Bill Reid-will present three awards that evening, including one for best fife and drum corps and one for best float.
"People really use the Torchlight Parade to help get them into the spirit of the holidays," said Sandy Clark.
Refreshments for the marching units and the general public will be coordinated by the Old Saybrook Rotary Club with donations provided also by local merchants. After the last unit passes the parade stand, the public can fall in behind them to march to the Town Green for hot cocoa and refreshments.
The Torchlight Parade's origin hails from an annual event that occurred in many New England towns during the Colonial period. Each December, the village militia would muster and march to the village common led by its fife and drum corps. Marchers and local residents would carry torches to light and follow along with the procession.
The annual Torchlight Parade has only been canceled for bad weather once in its 43-year run. For more information about participating in the event, call Sandy Clark at 860-399-9767.