Holiday Stroll draws shoppers, families to downtown Niantic

A horse-drawn carriage makes its way up Main Street during the Niantic Main Street Holiday Stroll on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017.  The 14th annual event featured family friendly activities and entertainment as well as the tree lighting and a visit from Santa. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
A horse-drawn carriage makes its way up Main Street during the Niantic Main Street Holiday Stroll on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017. The 14th annual event featured family friendly activities and entertainment as well as the tree lighting and a visit from Santa. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

East Lyme — Hundreds of people visited Main Street in downtown Niantic on Saturday, listening to holiday carols, shopping at local stores and riding in horse-drawn carriages during the 14th Annual Holiday Stroll.

Colchester residents Leo and Janella Carroll brought their twin 2-year-old daughters, Camilla and Calleigh, to the event because they like to come to the area and were looking for something fun.

"We just wanted to take the girls out to something that is family-friendly," Janella said.

The twins were eating chocolate near a s'mores station outside of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties on Main Street, as musicians — including The Rossi Sisters, Rosie, 13, and Annie, 10, of Niantic — performed holiday songs. The family spent the afternoon decorating cookies, getting hand tattoos, visiting Santa and listening to holiday carols.

The annual event, organized by Niantic Main Street, featured games and activities for families and promotions from local businesses. Niantic Main Street President Dan Walsh said the event, which has grown over the years and now draws hundreds of people, including many children, was started to drive people to small businesses in town on Small Business Saturday after "big business" Black Friday.

During the event, people browsed at local stores, which offered refreshments, discounts, prizes and games. People ate snacks at food trucks and stands, and also lined up for free carriage rides and enjoyed holiday activities sponsored by local businesses.

At the Children's Museum of Southeastern Connecticut on Main Street, children sat at tables writing letters to Santa. William Miskolcze, 9, sat at a table with his mother, Elaine, and wrote a letter to Santa thanking him for coming to his house every year. William told Santa that he has a big list this year and his house will be giving a lot of milk and cookies. He asked Santa a few questions, including what his favorite chocolate is, so they could make him the best kind of cookies.

William also was participating in the Holiday Stroll's scavenger hunt, in which children could earn a prize for collecting stamps from visiting businesses or spotting the "traveling reindeer" and "traveling elf." He said the day was "exciting."

The Holiday Stroll included a chili cook-off at Pro Tek Auto, won by Lillian's Café; arts and crafts at the East Lyme Police Department with East Lyme Youth Services; food trucks from Beef Fat Fry Guys, John Fish and Faddy's Donuts on Methodist Street, cookie decorating at Pro Tek Auto courtesy of Giuliano's Bakery; DJ WJR on Liberty Green; a ring toss at Black Point Jewelers, and glitter tattoos at Smoochie Bird, according to a listing of events.

About 5 p.m., a crowd of people gathered at Liberty Green on the corner of Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue for the annual tree lighting. Walsh, the Niantic Main Street president, and Selectman Kevin Seery greeted the crowd, with Seery welcoming people to the "best holiday stroll on the best Main Street in the best town in Connecticut."

People cheered as the lights on the tree went on after a countdown and then as artificial snowflakes were dropped from a lift and holiday music began to play. Santa, who traveled in a firetruck, soon arrived on the green, and he and Mrs. Claus waved to people as they walked over the green to the gazebo, which was decorated with red bows, garlands and lights. The Montville High School Caroling Choir sang on the green and along Main Street.

Walsh said the volunteer-based Niantic Main Street organization strives to make improvements in town, such as the  garlands that adorn the streetlights on Main Street during the holiday season. One of the volunteers with the organization, Bonnie Stanford, was helping out Saturday evening at Twist Yarn Shoppe's bracelet-making station on the green. The shop also distributed scarves and hats to those in need. Stanford said her employer, Chelsea Groton Bank, with a branch on Pennsylvania Avenue, is community-minded.

"This is one way that we can contribute to this community," she said.

Taylor Kirk and her daughter, Harper, of New London were among the people lining up Saturday evening to visit Santa at the gazebo. Kirk said the family was in Niantic to buy a car when they saw a flyer for the event and decided to go. She said this was Harper's first time to see Santa. When the family passed Santa on Main Street, Harper was so excited and started singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

"I'm having fun," Harper said. 

k.drelich@theday.com

The Rossi Sisters, Rosie, left, 13, and Annie, 10, laugh as they perform Christmas songs during the Niantic Main Street Holiday Stroll on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017.  The sisters perform locally, playing the piano, guitar and ukulele and also have  sung God Bless America at a Red Sox game and at a Hartford Yard Goats game. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
The Rossi Sisters, Rosie, left, 13, and Annie, 10, laugh as they perform Christmas songs during the Niantic Main Street Holiday Stroll on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017. The sisters perform locally, playing the piano, guitar and ukulele and also have sung God Bless America at a Red Sox game and at a Hartford Yard Goats game. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

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