BELFAST, Maine — Though the annual downtown Christmas Party may be a thing of the past on most of Main Street, don’t tell that to the folks at Weaver’s Bakery.
The downtown bakery has been hosting its annual Christmas Eve party since founder Gene Weaver opened its doors 54 years ago. Mark Weaver continued the tradition after Gene passed on, and Mark’s son Matt no doubt will do the same in years to come.
“It’s a way of saying thanks to all our customers,” Weaver said Wednesday. “It’s a chance for everybody to stop by and say, ‘Merry Christmas’ and wish one another a happy New Year.”
Weaver said he could recall when businesses up and down the street held annual parties, and owners and patrons would spend Christmas Eve walking from one store to another after they closed up shop for the day.
“Arnold’s Hardware, Kirk’s Drug, Palmer’s Stationery — they all used to have parties. Now they’re gone, and having a Christmas party is almost like a fading tradition,” Weaver said.
He said Christmas was a daunting workday back when the city was known as the Broiler Capital of the World and its two poultry packing plants were thriving. In those days it was not uncommon to sell 400 pies for the holiday. The bakery sells about 75 these days, he said.
“We still sell a ton of homemade rolls and fruit stollen, though,” he said. “Gingerbread men, Frosty the Snowman and Christmas cookies, too.”
1954 was the year that Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio got married, school children were first vaccinated against polio, the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam, President Dwight D. Eisenhower espoused the “domino theory” of encroaching Communism, the Supreme Court issued its Brown vs. Board of Education ruling, the words “under God” were added to the Pledge of Allegiance, the Miss America Pageant was broadcast on television for the first time, the first Burger King opened in Miami, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at an all-time high of 382 points, Willie Mays made his great World Series catch at the Polo Grounds, Condoleezza Rice was born, Ernest Hemingway won the Nobel Prize, and Belfast was celebrating its 100th year as a city.
A lot of things have changed since then, but the party at Weaver’s has remained the same. The fun begins about midafternoon when Mark cleans off his back room counters and puts out a spread of fresh-baked goodies and tray after tray of his famous meatballs. Folks from all walks of life circulate through the front and back doors of the bakery, enjoying the food, a cold beverage or hot toddy or two.
“I’ve been coming for many, many years and I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Belfast resident Phil Crosby said. “I’ve met more wonderful people here over the years and you won’t find a sour face in the whole group. Merry Christmas.”