PORT ORCHARD — Expect Port Orchard to put on the full Santa Saturday when the 2019 Festival of Chimes and Lights ushers in a “Christmas by the Bay” celebration filled with lights, music and festivities.
The 21st annual festival will paint downtown into a wonderland of sounds and sights to entice the community into celebrating this family-friendly holiday event on Bay Street.
Annual festival highlights include Santa and Mrs. Santa’s big arrival following the community tree lighting at City Hall, community and school choir performances, the ninth annual 5K Jingle Bell Run, the Pooch & Purrs Pet Parade and Costume Contest, and the sounding of chimes at City Hall’s main stage.
“The festival is a sweet event to kick off the holidays and it’s all free so families can come and just enjoy,” said Cindy Lucarelli, event chair and Port Orchard city council member.
“It’s really lovely,” Lucarelli said.
Vet to light Christmas tree
The event on Saturday will feature a local World War II veteran as the honorary tree lighter, who will throw the light switch for the Christmas tree lighting and the playing of the chimes. The veteran was chosen to honor the festival, as well as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, which also falls on Saturday.
Pearl Harbor Day honors the 2,403 citizens killed in the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941.
“Dr. John Stanley is our honorary tree lighter,” Lucarelli said. “This man is almost 96. He’s a World War II veteran and a local retired physician. He is so amazing. We don’t have very many World War II veterans left.”
When the festival debuted in 1998, it’s purpose was to showcase City Hall’s new clock tower chimes and make downtown festive and joyous, Lucarelli said. Since then, it has grown into a destination festival to ring in Christmas and light up and cheer downtown.
The Port Orchard business and community volunteers and sponsorship are what makes this event possible, city officials said.
“I greatly appreciate the hard work of our city employees, Port of Bremerton, Kitsap Bank and the numerous volunteers that decorate downtown to make this festival special,” Mayor Rob Putaansuu said.
The tree decorating contest features 58 decorated trees in planters along Bay Street, sponsored by individuals, businesses and nonprofits. The contest began last year after the city could no longer string garlands across Bay Street due to state regulations, Lucarelli said.
The tree decorating contest will include judging in three categories: best vintage, most creative and best business representative trees. There will also be the “Christmas Lane” lighted boat contest featuring festive, decorated boats at Port Orchard Marina to brighten the Bay.
As with just about every festival, there’s an event that tops them all: Santa Claus’s arrival at the tree-lighting ceremony in a 1942-vintage fire truck escorted by the South Kitsap High Marching Band. Afterward, the band will lead Santa to his sleigh on the Bay for ho-ho-hos and photo ops.
Also, the 9th annual Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis is planned during the event and will include a 1K run for kids featuring elves and the 5K Jingle Bell Run, with runners festooned in Christmas costumes and garb. Proceeds will benefit the Arthritis Foundation.
If you want to glam up your dog or cat in holiday attire, then the Pooch and Purrs Parade and Costume Contest is the perfect event to do so. Sponsored by Woodside Animal Hospital, pet owners will be able to parade their fur babies in their holiday best on Bay Street. Prizes are being donated by Cookie’s Pet Corner & Wash.
Costume categories include Most Festive, Most Creative, Best Overall, Best Group and an online Just Can’t Be There category for shy animals that need to stay at home.