For the best neighborhood Christmas light displays in the lower Penobscot Valley, Brewer takes the prize — in my opinion, of course.
Sometime in the 1980s, when my grandmother still lived, we created a Christmas tradition involving nocturnal drives through Bangor and Brewer neighborhoods to find the best light displays. Maybe Bangor’s too big, because we soon dropped the Queen City from our itinerary and focused on specific Brewer neighborhoods —
— with an Orrington side trip added in 2010.
Years ago, dueling light displays lured folks to outer Eastern Avenue, where neighbors apparently competed in 100-watt-upmanship to claim the title “Best Display in Brewer, Period.” Traveling past other light displays on Eastern Avenue between State Street and Parkway North lured “light chasers” onto adjacent streets, where we discovered unique displays that caused people to stop and “oooo.”
Figuring that Parkway South residents could compete effectively with their Parkway North counterparts, we explored Brewer streets south of Interstate 395 and found beautiful displays there, too. One particular Greenwood Drive house often featured an excellent Christmas display that effectively blended faith and secular, with Santa and his reindeers “ho, ho, ho’ing” near an exquisite and well-lit manger crèche.
We looked for that display last year, only to find it missing.
In time, we refined our Brewer Lights Tour to take approximately 60 minutes, including slow “drive bys” past outstanding displays. Same neighborhoods, same streets, with specific homeowners annually shifting their displays’ creativity and intensity: The anticipation lures us into Brewer every December to see what’s glowing where.
The Brewer Lights Tour route remained unchanged for 20-plus years, until circa 2006 or 2007, when Bangor historian Richard R. Shaw recommended we investigate “Gettysburg Heights” off North Main Street. “Look for Michael Celli’s house,” he suggested. “You’ll know it when you see it; it sings.”
So as that year’s Brewer Lights Tour wound down, we swung out North Main, found the Gettysburg Avenue sign near where the old Seven-Up bottling plant stood decades ago, and headed uphill …
… to find an entire neighborhood where [most] folks seriously decorate their household exteriors for the holidays. Lots of lights, colorfully and decoratively strung; Santas and reindeer and candy canes; an illuminated crèche that, in 2010, reminded us about “the reason for the season”; inflatable Christmas characters; and music: Christmas songs, holy and secular, even Alvin the Chipmunk irritating David Seville in “Christmas Don’t Be Late.” Music played outside specific homes, and on a bitter cold night, we rolled down the car windows to listen.
This neighborhood has its Christmas lights act together. Brewer has its Christmas lights act together.
Then last year we discovered the Wiswell Farm on Route 15 in North Orrington. Located less than a half mile south of the Brewer-Orrington line, the Wiswell Farm preserves valuable open space where housing subdivisions would otherwise run amuck. And at Christmas, the Wiswell Farm’s buildings and trees literally glow with multi-colored lights.
So join the “light chasers” checking out Brewer this Christmas season. And add North Orrington to your itinerary.