The colored lights strung across businesses in town mirrored the flashing lights of two Manchester Volunteer Fire Department engines as they drove down York Street on Friday evening to deliver a very special snowy-bearded visitor to the fire hall.
Santa Claus was a popular fellow with the children of Manchester as he stopped in to take pictures during the Manchester Black Friday Christmas Festival, put together by the Manchester Area Merchants Association and the town.
Upstairs in the fire hall, visitors could view a train garden put together by members of the fire department. Careful viewers could spot local landmarks like the Manchester water tower and the Dutch Corner Restaurant rendered tiny.
Amanda Schuller was visiting with her son, Lucas, who she said is a “super fan” of trains, especially steam engines. How much does he love trains? His only response was to stretch his arms as wide as they would go.
The 2017 train garden will be viewable at the Manchester Volunteer Fire Department through December.
Chairman of the train garden, Brian Miller, said the department starts reassembling the garden every year in mid-July, and most of the materials are donated by the community.
“We change it every year to add things,” he said. This year, a working waterfall was the newest addition. The train will be open to view through December from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursdays and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Up the road in the fire department’s activities building, MAMA vendors were gathered. Guests could pick up a map of the town, with the goal of visiting as many participating businesses as possible and collecting stamps. At the end of the night, six gift baskets were given to those who had filled their maps the most.
“It’s a fantastic town event,” said Kitty Walsh, who was selling Girl Scout cookies with her daughter’s Brownie troop inside the activities building. “We’ve seen people from as far away as Virginia.”
A hay wagon and a school bus were on hand to transport visitors around town from activity to activity. On the clear, mild night, the hay ride was especially popular, according to MAMA Treasurer Guy Garey. He said the map activity always draws new visitors who have never been to the businesses, and some become customers as a result of the event.
Ryan Dudash, who was manning a table inside BB&T bank on Main Street, said they saw steady traffic all evening with at least 50 visitors.
“It’s a great opportunity to connect with the community,” he said.
Patty Pentz, of Manchester, and visiting friend Debra Billington spent their evening adventuring around Main Street enjoying free cookies and collecting stamps.
“I love quaint little towns,” said Billington, who was visiting for the first time.
“It is a wonderful town,” Pentz agreed.
At 6 p.m., Mayor Ryan Warner kicked off the tree lighting in front of the old town hall building on York Road with the help two students from Manchester Elementary School. Many of the tree’s ornaments were made by students from the school.
Alex Wolfgang-Fatone, a third-grader, said the tree didn’t light up on the first try, but they got it after a little while, to much applause from the crowd.
He and his family, who have been visiting the tree lighting for about six years, then went across the street to visit the Trinity United Church of Christ, which was lighting its Nativity scene. During the lighting, the church’s bells played carols over the town.