PORT ORCHARD — If the cold and rainy fall weather doesn’t remind you of the holiday season, the impending Port Orchard Festival of Chimes and Lights event on Saturday, Dec. 2, surely will.
The festival — this year will be the 19th — is all about the colors and sounds of the Christmas season. Holiday lights in downtown shops and seasonal music played by the South Kitsap Marching Band are the festival’s trademark, said event chair Cindy Lucarelli, a Port Orchard City Council member.
When the festival debuted in 1998, “Its primary purpose was to show off our (City Hall’s) new clock tower chimes and invite citizens downtown for Christmas carols and holiday entertainment,” Lucarelli said.
While the Festival of Chimes and Lights has grown since then, it continues to center its celebration at City Hall and along Bay Street, she said.
For children, the festival’s highlight is the arrival of Santa Claus in a unique way. This year, the Jolly Old Man will arrive on a 1942-vintage fire truck with lights and sirens blazing, she added.
Another event that coincides with the festival is the seventh annual Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis on Dec. 2. Port Orchard is only the fifth city in the state to be awarded a Jingle Bell Run by the Arthritis Foundation. It will once again feature a children’s 1K Run with the Elves for ages 8 and under, starting at 1 p.m. It will be followed by the headliner 5K Jingle Bell Run at 1:30 p.m.
Sheila Cline, the event organizer, said expert runners will go first and will be followed by a collection of runners wearing colorful — and sometimes comical — Christmas garb. Event proceeds go to the Arthritis Foundation.
A crowd favorite over the years has been the “Pooch and Purrs” event, where costumed dogs and cats parade down Bay Street in pursuit (or at least by their owners) of finishing as category winners and taking home pet prizes.
Lucarelli said the pet parade event was initially crossed off the schedule this year because it lacked a sponsor.
“We’ve had a couple of sponsors step up to the plate to bring it back,” she said. “I think it’s going to be bigger and better.”
Dan McNabb, owner of Cookies Pet Corner and Wash on Bethel Avenue has donated a considerable amount of merchandise to be used as prizes, the festival’s organizer said. She said Woodside Animal Hospital in Port Orchard is underwriting the event, eliminating the need for fundraising to keep it going.
“I consider them to be local heroes for bringing Pooch and Purrs back,” Lucarelli said.
Bay Street merchants will be displaying Christmas items for celebrants to purchase, Lucarelli said. The Port Orchard Library next to the waterfront downtown will also be open. Librarian Kathleen Wilson will have kids’ crafts stations in the library from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The featured craft this year for kids to make is a pinecone gnome ornament.
Wilson said “treats and greets” will be shared at the library. At 3 p.m., Mary Shaver’s Marionettes perform “The Shoemaker and the Elves.” Live music will be played throughout the day until the library’s 7 p.m. closing.
Like last year, the Dragonfly Cinema will continuously run free showings of the holiday classic, “Elf,” throughout the afternoon and evening. Showtimes begin at 11:30 a.m., with the final showing beginning at 7 p.m.
Lucarelli said there will be more choirs than ever.
“We’ve added another choir this year,” she said. “That’s a lot of music, so we’ll be starting it a lot earlier. It’s really been a lot of fun because these are pretty large groups and they bring down grandma and grandpa, and other family members, who brave the weather and watch the performances.”
Longtime Port Orchard auto dealer Dick Vlist will be the honorary Christmas tree lighter this year. The lights decorating the Christmas tree in front of City Hall will be turned on at about 5:20 p.m.
The festival still needs some volunteers for the Dec. 2 event, particularly at the Port Orchard Marina and the waterfront to help with events staged there. Contact Lucarelli at 608-347-7508 if you are interested in helping out.