Sometime before Friday, Charles Williams will get in his truck and drive around Bath after dark, in search of lights.
“I usually wait until Tuesday or Wednesday, then I scout out my route,” said Williams, a driver for the city of Bath’s trolley bus service. “There’s a place on Dummer Street that must have 5,000 lights. The whole downtown is lit up, and there are usually a lot of good ones in the North End.”
Williams’ scouting mission is his prep work for the city’s annual Trolley Christmas Caroling rides, which begin Friday night. Driving a bus made up to look like a trolley, with wooden benches, Williams takes holiday revelers on 20- to 30-minute rides around Bath, so they can gaze at all the bright lights while singing carols at the top of their lungs.
Riders are strongly encouraged to bring a Thermos of hot chocolate and blankets, to keep warm.
The rides are free, but because they’ve become so popular in recent years, tickets will be required this year. Beginning at 4:30 p.m., people can pick up tickets for the ride they’d like to take at the ticket booth near City Hall. They then can stroll around town, have something to eat and come back when it’s time for their ride. Rides leave roughly every half-hour between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. The rides will be on Friday and Saturday evenings for the first three weeks of December, ending on Dec. 23.
“We found that last year we had people waiting in long lines in the cold,” said Jake Korb, director of the revitalization group Main Street Bath. “This way people can do something else and come back in time for the ride.”
The trolley buses are owned by the city and used for summer tours and to bring cruise ship passengers downtown, said Andrew Deci, the city’s planning and development director. At some point, it was decided that the trolleys could also be used at Christmas for light-seeing and singing.
Williams, who has been driving the trolley bus for 19 years, said passengers used to get printed lyrics to follow, but not everyone wants to read and hold onto paper in the cold. So now he plays a CD of popular Christmas tunes as he rides, from “Jingle Bells” to “Silent Night,” and asks people to sing along.
People who go downtown for the trolley rides on Dec. 9 will also be able to take advantage of the Downtown Bath Open House. All businesses are invited to stay open into the evening, and sidewalks will be lit with luminaria. There will also be music for that event and a Christmas window decorating contest for people to vote on.
But there will likely to be other things to do downtown any Friday and Saturday night in December. Korb said people at the ticket booth will have a community holiday events calendar on hand, to help people find other fun things to do before or after their trolley ride.
Bath is known for it’s spectacular Christmas lights, especially downtown. So just walking around gives people a good show. But the real light show, Williams said, is watching the children as they ride the trolley, sing and gaze wide-eyed at the best Christmas light displays in town.
“For me, it’s the joy of seeing the kids, seeing their faces light up,” said Williams.
WHEN: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday through Dec. 23
WHERE: Pick up is at Bath City Hall, 55 Front St. Trolley ride meanders through the city’s downtown and North End.
HOW MUCH: Free, but tickets are required. Tickets available, starting at 4:30 p.m., at the ticket booth near City Hall. Rides leave about every half-hour.