PORT Dover’s annual start of the holiday season, Christmas Fest, returns this Saturday, Nov. 18. This year’s festival will include Santa Claus’s arrival via tugboat, a parade, activities for families, and unique shopping opportunities at Port Dover stores.
The Canadian Coast Guard will escort Santa into town aboard a local tug boat captained by George Gibbons around 12:45 p.m. Following Santa’s arrival, the parade starts at 1 p.m. from Harbour Street. The parade travels north up Main Street, west on McNab Street West, and then south down St. George Street before dropping off Santa at Lighthouse Theatre on Market Street West.
Main, Harbour, St. George, and McNab Streets will close at noon on Saturday for the parade. They will reopen after the parade at about 2:30 p.m.
Parade Marshal Ev Deming, who has been part of Christmas Fest since it started, said she loves marshalling the parade. “It’s one of the easiest jobs ever—everyone is so helpful,” she said.
Ms. Deming thinks the parade contributes to Port Dover’s community spirit. “I think it’s an asset to our town,” she said. “It’s a great way to bring back the family togetherness that we feel on July 1st in Port Dover.”
This year’s event promises to provide lots of fun programming for participants. “Christmas Fest is a full day of activities for everyone,” said Port Dover Board of Trade Manager Jan Overend. “Bring your family and friends and have fun!”
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Port Dover Harbour Museum will have crafts and a scavenger hunt for kids at the museum and on Harbour Street. Horse-drawn wagon rides around Port Dover will be available from 5 to 8 p.m.
Mr. and Mrs. Claus will greet and take pictures with children at Lighthouse Theatre from 2 to 4 p.m. Santa will also appear at Port Dover Legion for breakfast on Sunday, Nov. 19, from 9 to 11 a.m.
A bonfire on the beach managed by volunteer firefighters with carolling and hot chocolate will start at 6:15 p.m. on Saturday night.
“We’re looking forward to having a safe and fun bonfire on the beach for everyone,” said Dacoda Pyle, Norfolk County Firefighter and President of the Port Dover Firefighters’ Association.
During the festival, Norfolk-Haldimand Community Hospice members will illuminate a memorial tree with blue lights in Powell Park as part of their “light it up blue” campaign to commemorate lost loved ones in the community.
“Christmas Fest is the unofficial start of the holiday season for Norfolk County,” said Derek Ritschel, Artistic Director for Lighthouse Theatre and Chair of Christmas Fest. He thinks the festival is “one of those things that makes this town great.”
Mr. Ritschel encourages parents to bring their children to see Santa at Lighthouse Theatre. He said the experience “is what memories are made of.”
Another significant element of Christmas Fest this year is local shopping. As part of the festival’s “Moonlight Madness,” many Port Dover stores will offer special sales and extended hours.
“The festival is a great opportunity to beat the rush and shop locally for the holidays,” Ms. Overend said. “Port Dover has a fabulous variety of shops to find the perfect Christmas gifts for your favourite people.”
Shops will also provide free ballots to win gift baskets containing products donated by local businesses. The baskets were assembled by Christmas Fest Head Elf Jody Overend, who said she received her title from Santa Claus himself a decade or so ago.
“Since then, I’ve been assisting Jan Overend… with collecting donated gift items and gift baskets from all the generous businesses in Port Dover,” she said. “The baskets are then displayed in the stores, along with ballot boxes and ballots.”
“There’s no purchase required, just fill out a ballot and you may be the lucky winner of one of these beautiful baskets filled with local goodies! Merry Christmas!”
Originally published November 15, 2023