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Annual Havre de Grace Candlelight Tour one of many opportunities for outdoor activity in Harford communities

Kristina Kramer of Bel Air with her chihuahua "Lil Ricky Ricardo" and friend, Alex Walkings of Brooklyn, New York, admire the Christmas lights decorating the Spencer-Silver Mansion, during the 2018 Havre de Grace Candlelight Tour. This year's tour is scheduled for Dec. 12.
Kristina Kramer of Bel Air with her chihuahua "Lil Ricky Ricardo" and friend, Alex Walkings of Brooklyn, New York, admire the Christmas lights decorating the Spencer-Silver Mansion, during the 2018 Havre de Grace Candlelight Tour. This year's tour is scheduled for Dec. 12. (Phil Grout / For Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a damper on many holiday community activities in Harford County this December, but there still are multiple ways to get out and enjoy the season in Havre de Grace and Harford’s other municipalities, plus get healthy exercise and fresh air.

Hundreds of tickets are still available for the 48th annual Havre de Grace Candlelight Tour, scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 12. More than 100 tickets, out of the 550 available, have been sold for the Susquehanna Museum at the Lock House’s annual fundraiser, according to Julie Ruhnke, a member of the Lock House board and chair of the Candlelight Tour.

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Ticket sales have been a bit slow so far, but Ruhnke expects they will “go crazy” this week and next week.

“We think, because it’s an outdoor tour, people are waiting to see what the weather is going to be [like], which right now is looking good,” she said Thursday.

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The tickets are available through the website of the Lock House museum — which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year — or through Eventbrite, plus they can be purchased in person at the museum or Joseph’s Department Store. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 if purchased the day of the tour, which runs from 4 to 8 p.m.

The Candlelight Tour has, in prior years, been an opportunity for people to walk through the city — their way lit by candle luminaries along the sidewalk — take tours of the historic houses, churches and museums in Havre de Grace, plus see the many festive decorations inside and outside.

People cannot go inside the buildings this year because of the pandemic, but they can still make their way through the community and enjoy decorations and outdoor musical and theatrical performances at each of the 14 stops.

Examples of the performers include Harford County’s Emma Kleinberg, who was a contestant on “American Idol” in 2019, and the Havre de Grace-based Tidewater Players. The Tidewater Players are scheduled to perform in front of Graw Alley, a series of murals along Market Street that show the history of the city, according to Ruhnke.

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“You basically go, spot to spot, outside and it gives people a chance to spread out and be safe,” Ruhnke said.

Participants also will receive a glow-stick candle to help light their way, in addition to the luminaries — candles placed in bags along downtown sidewalks by local Masons — according to Ruhnke.

“You’ll just see this parade of lights going through the town, and as [visitors] stand outside listening to music they’ll be watching the lights,” she said.

Sharon Diehl, left of Abingdon and Donna Kasnict, Havre de Grace leave the Harriss House at 110 S. Washington St. during the 2018 candlelight tour.
Sharon Diehl, left of Abingdon and Donna Kasnict, Havre de Grace leave the Harriss House at 110 S. Washington St. during the 2018 candlelight tour. (Phil Grout / For Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Next week’s Candlelight Tour will follow the city’s annual Holly Jolly First Friday. That event, scheduled for 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday, will feature the lighting of the Christmas tree in Rochambeau Plaza, socially-distanced visits with Santa Claus, carolers and multiple vendors along Washington and St. John Streets.

“You can go outside, you can get the fresh air,” Ruhnke said. “As long as you stay apart, you can still enjoy the lights and the music and everything Havre de Grace has to offer.”

Harford County’s other municipalities, Aberdeen and Bel Air, also are hosting holiday activities this month.

Aberdeen is holding a scaled-down version of its annual Christmas Street celebration on Saturday. There will not be a downtown Christmas parade or craft fair this year, but people can still visit Festival Park for family activities and games from 4 to 6 p.m., with a tree lighting at 5 p.m.

“The safety of our community, employees and volunteers comes first, while still trying to have some Christmas traditions in Aberdeen,” according to the city website.

Bel Air will not have its traditional Christmas parade, either, but people are still encouraged to visit the county seat. They can stroll through the downtown area, taking in holiday festivities, lights, downtown businesses, even horse-drawn carriage rides Saturday evenings through Christmas. More information is online at the Christmas in Bel Air website.

The Greater Bel Air Community Foundation, Bel AIr Downtown Alliance and the Town of Bel Air with help from a group of dedicated volunteers have transformed the Frederick Ward Park at the Reckord Armory on Main Street in Bel Air into a winterwonderland for the Christmas holiday, as seen in this 2019 photo.
The Greater Bel Air Community Foundation, Bel AIr Downtown Alliance and the Town of Bel Air with help from a group of dedicated volunteers have transformed the Frederick Ward Park at the Reckord Armory on Main Street in Bel Air into a winterwonderland for the Christmas holiday, as seen in this 2019 photo. (Matt Button / The Aegis/Baltimore Sun Media)

The Town of Bel Air also is offering free parking in metered spaces along the street, from Dec. 12 through Jan. 2, to help promote downtown businesses and restaurants. Visitors can park in the Hickory Avenue garage for 50 cents per hour on weekdays and for free during nights and weekends, according to a news release issued by the town’s economic development department Thursday.

People also can get out and walk around their community, even if they are not attending a holiday festival. Havre de Grace offers a mobile app to help guide visitors along the Lafayette Trail, a three-mile course with 37 stops encompassing 57 sites that showcase the history of the city.

Visitors have been able to traverse the Lafayette Trail, which is marked by a number of medallions along sidewalks and now street signs, since 2006 with help from pamphlets describing the history behind each stop. The Havre de Grace Alliance recently developed a high-tech guide for the trail, which can be obtained by downloading the DISTRX app — it is available in iPhone and Android app stores.

Users can see photos, past and present, of the various sites, and they can hear audio presentations that cover the history of each location. The audio portions feature Havre de Grace figures such as Madelyn Shank, U.S. Sen. Millard Tydings, John O’Neill and business leader and philanthropist Stephen Seneca, voiced by local residents and city leaders.

“It was fun to develop, because everyone has a story and a memory,” said Ruhnke, who works for the Alliance and developed the app with grant funding from the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway.

The app has been popular since it went live in October, with some residents reporting seeing people outside their houses listening to their phones and learning about the history of the dwelling, according to Ruhnke, who said that “there’s so much in Havre de Grace” to see and enjoy.

“You’re outside and you’re safe, and just enjoy the history and the nature and everything we have here,” Ruhnke said.

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