11-26-18 Santa in North Conway 1

Santa Claus greeted hundreds of children and parents last year as he arrived for the annual tree lighting during the Old Fashioned Christmas on Thanksgiving Weekend in North Conway’s Schouler Park. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

CONWAY — It sounds like a scene out of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

Due to factors that include changes in personnel at the Eastern Slope Inn Resort and a lack of sponsorship and volunteer coordination, the “Old-Fashioned Christmas” celebration in North Conway Village that has been held every Thanksgiving Weekend for the last five years won’t happen this season. But North Conway and Conway will forge ahead without a formal celebration, said Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Janice Crawford in a press release in which she noted that despite the lack of tree lightings, “the Grinchmas On Ice skating show is being presented by the MWV Skating Club at the Ham Arena at 5:15 p.m. on Dec. 7, with free public skating to follow, and there will be New Year’s Eve Fireworks at Schouler Park at 9 p.m. on Dec. 31.”

Crawford was on vacation and unavailable for comment this week, but fellow member of the Community Celebrations Committee John Eastman, who is director of the Conway Parks and Recreation Department, said Tuesday that while “the tree lights were put up by town crews earlier this month, and the lights will be turned on Wednesday night, and they will stay on throughout the Christmas season ... there will be no tree lighting ceremony.”

Eastman and others interviewed said a primary reason for the cancellation was the departure this year of former Eastern Slope Inn Resort Marketing Director Frank Guerriero, who left to take a position in Portland, Maine.

“It’s a lot of work, and Frank (Guerriero) spearheaded the Old Fashioned Christmas for our committee,” said Eastman.

“I guess you could say that there is an opportunity should anyone out there want to get involved and step up to help for future years, and there are also sponsorship opportunities,” he said.

“I am disappointed that it is not happening this year,” said fellow committee member Deb Jasien, who set the stage for the Old Fashioned Christmas with her coordination of the Shops at Norcross Circle’s Snowflake Festival in 2012.

Jasien, who is a set designer for M&D Productions, worked with Guerriero and town crews in the past to decorate the park and design the lighting, something that Jordon Hewson and Laura Denis took over this year.

Jasien said M&D’s board of directors pondered taking on the Old Fashioned Christmas when she learned about six weeks ago that the Eastern Slope Inn would not be coordinating the effort in Guerriero’s absence.

“With our moving to the Eastern Slope Playhouse at the inn earlier this year and all of the work that was involved with that, we were unable to do that this year,” she lamented.

“We are, however, going to be doing the reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ Dec. 20-22 at the playhouse,” said Jasien.

Like Eastman, she said sponsorship opportunities for the Old-Fashioned Christmas will be welcomed and that anyone interested in helping out as volunteers and/or sponsors for future years should call (603) 356-5701, Ext. 303 or email janice@mtwashingtonvalley.org for more information.

Joe Berry, principal of the Eastern Slope Inn Resort, confirmed the resort would not be sponsoring the event, which in the past also consisted of Santa heading up Main Street to the North Conway Public Library to get a copy of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” after which the procession headed to the Eastern Slope Inn for a resort lighting, reading of the tale by Santa at the Eastern Slope Playhouse and hot chocolate.

In an email Monday, Berry noted the event “was Frank’s project, and he now lives out-of-state (and) its expense was well over $4,000.”

But, he said, “Our resort is going to add winter lights to five more trees adjacent to Schouler Park, to brighten up the area.”

Although North Conway and Conway’s tree lightings are not taking place this year, there are several other longtime traditional celebrations that are continuing in the valley and nearby communities.

Traditionally Yours, Jackson, presented by the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce (jacksonnh.com; 603-383-9356), is celebrating the season as it has for nearly 30 years, said Executive Director Kathleen Flammia. Beginning this weekend, the celebration continues weekends through Dec. 22. Jingle Bell tours start at 11 a.m. and continue hourly until 4 p.m. each day.

Ticket sales are open to visitors booking stays at any of the Jackson lodging members. Tickets for anyone booking a group of 10 or more can be booked by calling (603) 383-9356. Tickets must be reserved.

A tree-lighting ceremony will be Dec. 1 at 4 p.m. at the Jackson Village gazebo. Immediately following, Christmas Farm Inn & Spa invites all to stop by for hot chocolate and homemade cookies in the historic barn. Santa will make an appearance at the inn as well.

The town of Bartlett will hold its tree lighting Dec. 1. Gather at Josiah Bartlett Elementary School for caroling and band music at 3:30 p.m. The tree lighting is set for 4 p.m. in Gazebo Park. Cookies and hot chocolate will be served, and Santa and Miss Mount Washington Valley will be on hand.

Settlers Green will hold its Holiday Festival and Tree Lighting Dec. 7.

For more holiday events, see the Sun’s Dec. 7 cover story.

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