Tag Archives: holiday traditions

12 Days of New England Christmas Traditions (Day 10): Edaville’s Christmas Festival of Lights

When the Bridgton and Saco River Railroad shut down in 1941, farmer Ellis D. Atwood bought several passenger and freight cars and constructed a railroad on his cranberry plantation in South Carver, Massachusetts. What began as a practical way to move supplies around the plantation became a local tourist attraction. After offering free rides to neighbors, Atwood opened his railroad to the public in 1947, complete with small amusement park rides. In the late 1940s, Atwood introduced an annual Festival of Lights to celebrate the Christmas holiday.

The railroad and the surrounding park went through many owners after Atwood died as the result of an accident in 1950, but the holiday light tradition continued. For a time in the 1990s, the park was shut down. Eventually, all of the railroad cars were sold off and the park was reopened with new passenger cars. In 2005, the current owner renamed the park Edaville USA and introduced updated rides and attractions mostly related to cranberry harvesting. Despite the changes, the Festival of Lights continued to be a popular attraction. Today the event features not only one of the largest light displays in the region, but also hot chocolate and cookies, and carol singing. Many children wear their pajamas for the nighttime ride.  After the train ride, families can explore light displays and enjoy vintage amusement park rides.

In 2011, the railroad introduced a new holiday attraction: a live version of The Polar Express. The popular children’s book comes alive in a 40-minute train ride around the cranberry bogs that culminates in the appearance of Santa Claus.

Photo: Edaville.com

Photo: Edaville.com

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