Santa brings holiday cheer to downtown Athol 

  • This tot, reaching for mom, has apparently had enough of Santa Claus. Santa made a visit to Athol Saturday evening to celebrate the illumination of downtown Athol's holiday lights. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

  • Parents lined up with their children for a visit with Santa in downtown Athol Saturday night. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

  •  Santa Claus hitched a ride from Town Hall to Veterans Park in the cab of an Athol fire truck. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

  • PHOTO BY GREG VINEAthol Assistant Public Works Director Paul Raskevitz (l), his wife Elise, and Selectboard Vice Chairwoman Rebecca Bialecki await the arrival of Santa Claus at Town Hall. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News 
Published: 11/28/2022 8:59:33 AM
Modified: 11/28/2022 2:53:25 PM

ATHOL — Considering the event was conceived and organized in a scant 10 days or so, a good number of families showed up in downtown Athol around sundown Saturday to await the arrival of Santa Claus at Town Hall.

Accompanied by a handful of elves and an attendant, Santa mounted the cab of a fire truck which would take him to Veterans Park. The fire truck and an escort of police cruisers then made their way slowly down Main Street with lights flashing and sirens blaring, with adults and children following on foot.

Santa then took a seat on the edge of the park’s fountain, where he posed for photos with children and heard their wishes for Christmas while his attendant handed out candy canes.

Lights that had been strung along Main Street by public works crews, along with those put in place at Veterans Park by volunteers last weekend, lit up when the sun went down, giving the downtown a festive holiday appearance.

Santa Claus visit came courtesy of Kevin Donelan of Santa Visits You of Athol.

Planning for Saturday’s visit by Santa didn’t really get underway until Nov. 16, the day after Selectboard Vice Chairwoman Rebecca Bialecki vowed to put an event together to celebrate the holidays and light up downtown Athol.

Asked why she felt it was important to organize a holiday event, given the short timeline, Bialecki told the Athol Daily News, “I think that lighting those lights is important to the townspeople. I think it means more than just the holiday itself. It’s sort of, to me, it just makes you think of the community’s spirit, so I thought it was important that we do that.

“We’ve had such a tough couple of years with the pandemic and everything else going on, to finally see people out and about and coming together for things like this that are so normal  —  we needed to do it.”

Bialecki added that the plan is to make the Santa visit and downtown lighting an annual event.

“We need to get more funding in order to buy new decorations,” she said, “because ours are a little bit tired. We made do with what we had for this year, hopefully to raise people’s awareness for next year so that we can get some donations in.

“We also need to grow the Holiday Decorating Committee even larger to be able to do a better job of hanging existing and increased lights. And we need to get the committee together earlier in the year. So, we will meet right after the new year when we pull all of the decorations down, and sort of reorganize and get a chairperson and get things going again.”

Bialecki said the holiday decorations are paid for mainly through private contributions.

“They’re funded pretty much through donations,” she said. “This year there was a small line item (in the municipal budget) that came through — I think some other funds — through the DPW.”

She said anyone willing to donate to the decoration fund should send a check to the Town of Athol and note in the memo line that the money is for holiday decorations. The town maintains a separate fund for such donations, according to Bialecki. She also said she plans on speaking with Town Manager Shaun Suhoski’s administrative assistant, Bridget Armentrout, about setting up a link on the town’s website where donations can be made electronically.

Bialecki said decorations for downtown can be pretty expensive.

When asked if an estimate of $35,000 for the purchase of the town’s current stash of decorations is accurate, she said, “That probably is true … when they bought them. Each of those strands that go overhead (skylines) are like seven grand a piece when you buy those new. This year we have a volunteer, Raenette Kramer, who is going to take all the swags and fluff them up a bit for next year.”

In addition to Bialecki, those involved with the Holiday Decorating Committee include Kramer, Sarah Collins, Diane DiPietro, Becky Henry, Jamie Cleveland, Diane DiPietro and Ann Willhite.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com. 


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