Thousands expected for Warren Holiday Festival

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If you saw Marilyn Mathison earlier this week, she was probably a blur. With just a week to go until Warren's 24th annual Holiday Festival, the beloved event's chairperson was running around like crazy, making sure everything was ready for the two-day festival, scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Nov. 23 and 24. "It's been pretty busy," she said Monday morning, taking a break from passing out flyers for the event. "At least we know it's not going to rain. It's going to be great!" Rain or no rain, the Warren Holiday Festival has turned in to a major event in Warren, thanks in no small part to Ms. Mathison and the other volunteers who have helped stage it since the late 1980s. Ms. Mathison has been at the helm solo for about four or five years, and setting up the event is always a big undertaking, she said. "I usually start (getting ready) right after the last year's festival," she said. "I get ideas, then I start fund-raising at the beginning of October. And then getting in touch with everyone takes some time." That's understandable. The festival includes carolers, singers, jugglers, Native American educators, and much more and in all, costs about $6,000 to stage. "I'll spend whatever I get," she said. "I just leave enough at the end to send out Thank You notes and letters to people who helped out." Here's what's on tap this year (for a full flyer, see the Warren Times-Gazette website at www.eastbayri.com):

Friday, Nov. 23

Santa arrives atop a fire truck at the Baker Street Museum. He'll be there from 5 to 7 p.m.. Meanwhile, there will be a children's ornament workshop at rescue headquarters on Miller Street, and tours of the Maxwell House, Federal Blues Militia on Baker Street and the Masonic Temple. Also don't forget to check out Barrington juggler, stilt walker and balloon animal artist Maurice Reid Eighme, who will ramble around downtown Warren, BMX bike trickster Sam Curtis and his Flatland Trick Bike Riding (performing at the foot of Baker Street) and A Different Spin fire performance and circus arts troupe on Narragansett Way. If carols are your thing, the Hugh School Chorus will sing at the Methodist Church on Church Street, and the Mount Hope Vocal Ensemble will perform at 5:30 p.m. at 31 Baker St. Just before 7 p.m., fall in line behind the Mt. Hope High School Marching Band as organizers handle out candles in Massasoit Park and make their way toward town hall in preparation for the tree lighting. There, the Mt. Hope Vocal Ensemble will sing as dignitaries and Santa wait and finally light the town's lights. Afterwards, everyone is invited to the main fire station on Railroad Avenue for refreshments. Also, from 8 to 10 p.m. local musicians Otis Read, Joyce Katzberg, Jimmy Warren and Peter Breen will play for free upstairs at the Wharf Tavern. All are welcome at the concert, the first time it's been held in conjunction with the festival. "I wanted to have it at the Wharf because it's a good place, but also to let people know they're back open" after floods brought on by Hurricane Sandy.

Saturday, Nov. 24

There will be holiday festivities too numerous to mention all afternoon Saturday. From a meet and greet with Santa at the old Senior Center from noon to 1:30, to traditional Wampanoag story teller Annawon Weeden at 2 p.m. at the senior center, the day will be full. Other highlights include juggler and stilt walker Maurice Reid Eighme, moonwalks at the central fire station, Touch a Truck at the main fire station, and the ringing of the Methodist and Baptist churches' 19th century brass bells from noon to 2 p.m. Again, there are many more events; see www.eastbayri.com for a full schedule.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.