Bells will be ringing, but that’s just the start of it. Skates will be clinking, house lights will be shining, and there are rumors that Santa will put the Grinch in a headlock.
Kristin Connor has been the director of the city of Portland’s Parks and Recreation Department for 17 years, and as the city’s holiday season kicks into full steam this weekend, even she seems excited about the bevy of events being added to an ever-expanding citywide celebration.
“Several years back, the decision was made to create Christmas on the Coast. It kind of got thrown off by Covid, but last year, we came back better than ever,” she said.
Everything about this year’s Christmas plans, including no less than 10 new events added to the plans, centers around an ice-skating rink at the city’s community center. And if the number of events being added to the celebration are any indicator, this year’s Christmas on the Coast will wow visitors.
Saturday, Dec. 3, marks the beginning of community events with a full slate of activities, starting with Breakfast with Santa at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. A farmer’s market follows from 9-1, which Santa will attend, and Pooch-A-Palooza – or pet pictures with Santa – starts at 11 a.m. and lasts for two hours.
“I mean, pets need their pictures with him too, don’t they?” Connor joked.
Also on Saturday, the ice-skating rink officially opens, and the city will hold its Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony at 6 p.m.
Putting on an event of this size is no small feat, and Connor said the city dedicates budget money to make sure it’s done well. The city uses its hotel tax revenue, paid by visitors of the city, to fund the event.
“One of the things we really believe is that quality of life is vital to a community, and Parks and Recreation plays a very important role in that,” Connor said. “So if you’re asking where an event like this fits in, we know that Portland is growing, and even though we’re growing, we still want to have that feel of a small community.”
Even more, Connor said events like this give people in
the city a way to become engaged.
“When people come to these events, they meet new people. They become engaged,” she said. “And we know that having engaged citizens contributes to making the community a better place to live.”
The work Connor and her staff do to put on an event this size has not gone unnoticed. City Manager Randy Wright praised the work and said the city is in for a treat with this year’s festivities.
“The city is very lucky to have such a talented Parks & Recreation Department,” Wright said. “Kristin Connor never fails to deliver fun, quality programs for our residents – young and old alike. This year, they have really outdone themselves with a great lineup of holiday activities. I’m very proud of Kristin and her staff.”
Among the new events, all being held near the ice-skating rink, will be a Jingle Bell Concert Series on Dec. 4, 11, and 18, all from 6-8 p.m. The First Baptist Academy Choir will perform on Dec. 8 at 6:30 p.m. and the traditional Christmas in Portland will be held Dec. 10 from 5-8 p.m. For that event, Connor said the city still needs volunteers to help.
“For anyone that can volunteer, we’ve got a cool T-shirt and we’ll feed them really well in a buffet from all the local restaurants,” Connor said.
A Tinsel Trot, Illuminated Run and Concert will take place on Friday, Dec. 16, but it’s the next day when Santa may well flex his muscles.
“We have a group called Premier Wrestling out of Austin that will put on a 2-hour show,” Connor said. “We know the Grinch will be there, but we also know it’s going to be very family friendly.”
Other new events planned this year are a Candy Cane Drop and Inflatable Frenzy on Dec. 21 at 6 p.m.
“We want kids to wear all of their inflatable costumes, mainly because it’s fun to watch them,” Connor said.
Christmas Extreme, scheduled the next day on Dec. 22, will include a rock wall, G-Force and inflatables from 6-9 p.m. And on Dec. 23, the city will host a Christmas movie and popcorn from 6-9 p.m.
And if that’s not enough, Christmas on the Coast will conclude with two events after Dec. 25. An ax throwing will be held Dec. 29 from 6-9 p.m., and a Neon New Years on Dec. 30, also from 6-9 p.m.