Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Ever since moving to Kennebunkport full time, I have faced a bit of trouble getting people to visit. It's a problem I have a hard time understanding, considering that I am offering free lodging in a premier vacation location, but hey. My high school friends are city kids. And Kennebunkport is no city.

So I decided to try a different tactic, skipping the usual 'come lie on the beach with me' summer invite, to instead invite them to this year’s Christmas Prelude, the annual celebration that earned Kennebunkport the title of #2 Christmas town in America by HGTV.

(Don't ask me who #1 is. We don't speak of that here.)

The result? My absolute favorite of my 16 Christmas Preludes to date. And so, following in my mother's tradition of making detailed notes after each party/gathering, I am sharing some tips to make Prelude Weekend #2, next year's Prelude, and all of your future Preludes, just as successful.

Don’t be afraid to skip the tree lighting on Weekend #1. My friends arrived in town just a few minutes too late to head downtown, which was fine with me as I was still baiting barn mice and in no mood to fight Dock Square traffic. Instead, I plan to attend the tree lighting for Prelude Weekend #2. Anticlimactic? Sure. Probably less crowded? I’m going to go with yes. Also, this year the Prelude Weekend #2 kickoff will include fireworks by New Hampshire’s Atlas Pyrotechnics to celebrate the event’s 30th anniversary. Atlas are the same guys that do the Phil Matthews Lobster Bake every year, so I can say from my own experience that they put on an amazing display. Watch from the bridge, behind Alisson’s, or on the Best of Everything lawn.

A lot of the chowder in this town is comparable. Actually, to be totally truthful, a lot of the chowder in this town comes from the same food distributor. Rather than buying a bowl at 'sit down' price, I picked up bulk containers at Port Lobster early in the day and prepared it on my own stove at home later for my guests. The ladies at Port Lobster are super friendly, and also incredibly generous with oyster crackers.

Watch out for Prelude. Beer, that is. Each year around this time Shipyard releases its popular seasonal brew, Prelude. And each year unsuspecting visitors drink without realizing the punch that it packs. From what I remember, last year’s Prelude ABV hovered around 6.8%. This year the Prelude on tap at our local brewpub, Federal Jacks, clocks in at 7.1%. You might want to cab-it home.

Speaking of cabs, don’t forget that our town only has one. And please also remember that if you live anywhere outside a two-mile radius of the bar, you will be heckled for monopolizing said cab. (To which I say, if you live inside a two-mile radius of the bar, WALK!)

Don’t be ashamed to check out the craft fairs. Does it sound like something your grandma would do? Yes. Is it actually something that all the cool kids are doing? Yes. It’s hip to support your local artisans, and also the organizations hosting them. Which brings me to my next point.

Buy local! While I didn’t do much holiday shopping this year, I did opt to skip Home Depot and instead pick up my barn door wreath at Patten’s Berry Farm. Prelude may be a Christmas celebration at the surface, but it is also a way to extend our tourism season and thank our local merchants with one last hurrah before many shut down or switch to shortened hours for the winter. Help them pay their heating bills with some local support.

Check out the historic trolley ride at the Seashore Trolley Museum. While much of Prelude centers around Dock Square and Lower Village, the Trolley Museum is just a short drive up Log Cabin Road. It is far enough out of the way that there is no crowd and lots of available parking, but what it lacks in people it makes up for in holiday spirit. The trolleys are decorated with fresh wreaths and there is plenty of hot chocolate (with both marshmallows and whipped cream!). Plus, if you're lucky enough to get the same museum volunteer that we did, you will be treated to a rendition of the Christmas story involving Kennebunkport history, trolley trivia, and some (humorous?) nods to modern travel regulation.

Visit the Cape Porpoise pier. Goat Island Lightstation is literally my favorite place in the entire world and to be perfectly honest, I did spend a good chunk of my Prelude out on the island. The lighthouse is currently undergoing a restoration to the 1950’s era, with much of the exterior work now complete. In keeping with the retro theme, the island is currently decorated with large, colored Christmas lights, easily visible from Cape Porpoise. Drive down after 6 PM for the full display.

Speaking of which, drive slowly. Is it frustrating that after three months of relative freedom the port is again packed with confused out of state drivers? Sure. But try not to rush around a curve so fast you slam into the back of Rockin' Horse Stables' horse drawn wagon. Remember, Prelude brings a whole slew of road obstacles, including my ever favorite noncommittal pedestrians who just can't decide if they want to cross that crosswalk.

If you visit the Franciscan Monastery for the annual carol sing, definitely accept the chestnuts you are offered on the way in - if only to say that you once literally ate chestnuts roasting on an open fire while singing Christmas carols. Also, they're delicious. And BYO-votive, and glass. After 12 years of dealing with wind blowing out our standard-issue candles, my family finally got smart.

Carols too tame for you? Don't worry. Karaoke prevails for the Prelude night crowd. Weekend #1 highlight was definitely a Saturday night trip to the all out sing along that is Christmas karaoke at Alisson's. I loved walking into a bar where everyone present had a red solo cup in hand and was belting out "Sweet Caroline". Boston North? Yeah, that's us.

Cap off your weekend with an all you can eat brunch back at Federal Jack's. Maybe it is because my friends and I always make it on the early side, but I honestly have no idea why there is never a longer wait for this brunch. For $10 you can get full access to a hot food bar including eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy, homefries, hash, waffles, pancakes, crepes, and pastries. Plus there is an omelete / benedict station, weekly special, and coffee is included. Pay a visit to the friendly bartender to buy your Allen's seperately. And please tip him well. He's my baby brother.

The result of the above formula? My high school friends had so much fun that they are already planning their next trip back. Even with all the barn mice.

See you all out in the Port this weekend?


  1. I'll visit. I have the same problem since moving to Skowhegan. I don't really know anybody who lives within an hour.

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