There’s something magical about this time of year. The air is crisp and fresh, and we can almost smell the promise of snow on the wind. Winter’s darkness magically lifts as brilliant twinkle lights pop up along our city streets. Everyday life becomes imbued with happiness and joy.

Don’t miss all the fun performances at the Port Holiday Festival. Photo courtesy: Port of Bellingham.

When I was younger, I thought my enthusiasm for the holiday season would wane with age. But, much to my delight, it only continued to grow, fueled by family traditions and special community events that enhance the joy of the season.

One of my favorite events is the Holiday Port Festival, hosted by the Port of Bellingham. This free, family-friendly event takes place on December 7, 8 and 9, 2018, at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal. “Each year for 28 years, the Port of Bellingham has looked forward to hosting the community at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal,” says Port of Bellingham Meeting and Event Supervisor Tiffany DeSimone.

To me, the Holiday Port Festival embodies the spirit of the season. I love attending with family and friends, relishing the festivities and making cherished memories. And there’s no better way to connect with community than in this joyful space.

I enjoy watching our local choirs, bands and dancers perform each year. Their excitement is contagious, as is the proud gleam in their young eyes as they showcase their talents and hard work. “This fun family tradition brings over 900 local students together to perform for their friends and family,” says DeSimone.

The Port of Bellingham’s Holiday Port Festival features performances by local bands, orchestras, choirs and performance groups. Photo courtesy: Port of Bellingham.

And that’s just the beginning. The weekend is filled with fun highlights, like horse-drawn carriage and tractor wagon rides, kids’ art activities and the beautiful belles of the ball – the winter princesses. Best of all? The big man himself! Santa Claus loves hanging out at the Holiday Port Festival almost as much as I do. This year FREE Santa photos will be available online after the event.

My favorite part is simply relishing the sounds of holiday music, people-watching and sipping a flavorful cup of hot apple cider – which is free thanks to Haggen, along with some scrumptious holiday cookies. Who could ask for more? These simple delights mean the most to me this time of year. Plus, they’re delicious.

Speaking of delicious, I always enjoy perusing the Holiday Port Festival’s gingerbread house display. I’m constantly amazed at the creativity in these sugary creations. I really take my time and examine each one, finding the special details and hidden gems. Some additions make me laugh out loud. One of these years, I may try my hand at culinary construction myself ….

The Holiday Port Festival Gingerbread House Contest

These gingerbread houses will blow your mind. Photo courtesy: Port of Bellingham.

While gingerbread houses are a clear holiday classic, this contest welcomes any kind of edible structure. You could build a gingerbread igloo, a graham cracker yacht or a candy spaceship. Perhaps a candy corn condo is right up your (city) alley. Or maybe you prefer a mellow marzipan mansion. For ideas and to explore the amazing creations from past years, check out the Gingerbread House Contest Facebook page.

The contest is free and open to all ages and ability levels. Participants are invited to compete in one of several categories, including:

  • 2018 Theme Category: Home Sweet Home
  • Business/ Nonprofit
  • Family
  • Adult
  • Senior Citizen
  • Professional
  • Youth 5 Years and Under
  • Youth Grades K – 3
  • Youth Grades 4 – 8
  • Youth Grades 9 – 12
The gingerbread house contest is open to edible structures of all kinds. Photo courtesy: Port of Bellingham.

Ribbons are awarded to the top three entries in each category. Entry forms must be received by 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 28. You can enter online or call the Port at 360-676-2500 to have an entry form mailed to you.

Participating in the Gingerbread House Contest is a beloved tradition for many Whatcom County families, and it does more than warm hearts and delight the senses. After the judging, many donate their masterpieces to the Holiday Port Festival’s silent auction. Proceeds from this event benefits Toys for Tots, a nonprofit that provides Christmas presents for kids in need. The event also includes a food drive benefiting the Bellingham Food Bank.

This year’s Gingerbread Contest theme category is “Home Sweet Home.” What better way to celebrate the season than gathering with loved ones and hand-making a sweet structure that exemplifies your idea of home? I’m always amazed how one simple prompt can result in such a diversity of creations. I can’t wait to see what “Home Sweet Home” looks like to our community.

And don’t forget to vote for your favorite entry. The People’s Choice Award winner will receive a ribbon and a special prize.

Don’t miss the 2018 Holiday Port Festival. This year promises to be better than ever, but it’s the people who really make it great. DeSimone says “Thanks to the folks of Whatcom County for joining us to celebrate the Holiday Season.”

This is the perfect way to kick off your holiday season, connect with your community and bond with those you love. After all, isn’t that what the holidays are all about? It’s certainly what makes my season merry and bright.

Holiday Port Festival 2018

December 7, 12:00 – 8:00 p.m.
December 8, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
December 9, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Bellingham Cruise Terminal

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