Queens County's quintessential Christmas festival returns on December 1 with all of the usual trappings and a little something extra.
This year marks the fifth anniversary of Christmas on the Mersey, a tradition that Mark Reynolds, chair of the event committee, started just a few months after the closure of the Bowater paper mill with the aim of boosting community spirit.
"We have an amazing presentation of things for people to do this year, the same as we have in the past," said Reynolds.
"The goal in our minds is to make people feel good about [Queens County], being happy that there is something going on that's cool and different."
This year's weekend-long event falls in the middle of some of Queens County's Christmas events, but acts as a focal point for the community. It all starts with a Christmas tree lighting in front of the Town Hall Arts and Cultural Centre, but there is just one thing missing - trees.
The Region of Queens Municipality removed trees dating back two decades from the front of the building during renovations. The trees were deteriorating from age and, according to Mayor David Dagley, they were causing some issues with the siding on the building.
Two pipes were placed in the ground where the old trees once stood. Temporary trees for the holidays will be placed in those pipes and will be lit at the opening ceremony on December 1.
"They will not be planted but they will be installed on either side of the front lot," said Dagley.
The evening will also feature opening remarks from the mayor and Christmas carols provided by the Dr. John C. Wickwire Academy.
The public is encouraged to bring non-perishable items as the local air cadets squadron will have a truck parked next to the town hall with the goal of filling it up for the Queens County Food Bank.
"I think they have a great chance of filling up that truck," said Reynolds, adding that this is the first food drive, but that some money has been raised for the food bank through the festival in the past.
As in previous years, the Friday night will continue with a parade of lights, created with the use of hand-held electric candles, across the bridge in Liverpool, leading to Lane's Privateer Inn. First Nations families in traditional Mi'kmaq dress will join the group via canoes provided by the Milton Canoe and Camera Club.
Torch bearing members will light a communal fire provided by the Native Council of Nova Scotia and a round dance will be performed once there. Afterward, the public can grab some hot chocolate and cookies, provided by Lane's Privateer Inn and watch a fireworks display.
The weekend continues with community dinners and breakfasts, caroling, public skating at Queens Place Emera Centre, the annual Craft and Gift Gallery, and a three-day scavenger hunt.
Downtown for the holidays
Councillors Brian Fralic and Heather Kelly have organized a mercantile day taking place on December 2.
"All of our events are coinciding with the [gift gallery] at the legion ... so we're actually having our events from 10 - 2," said Fralic.
Businesses have been encouraged to participate and draw as many people to downtown Liverpool as possible.
"Hopefully that will encourage people to come down and spend some time on Main Street," said Fralic, adding he hopes the event grows in the coming years. "We're doing this as councillors as a part of the revitalization."
Some businesses are hosting music or face painting, others will have tax free sales or offer deals on items. Some pop up shops will be present and there's even $1 bowling and hot chocolate at the bowling alley.
Some not-for-profits are also taking part. The Liverpool fire department is bringing Santa and a fire truck to town. The Queens County Food Bank is holding a clothing sale as a fundraiser and the Thomas H. Raddall Library is hosting a virtual reality demonstration.
"Privateer Days is hosting a petting zoo on Main Street," said Fralic.