Holiday Happenings may not be happening this year

File photo From left, Jessica Andrews, 10, Fiona O'Rourke, 5, and Dierdre O'Rourke, 10, sit under the Christmas tree after the lighting ceremony at TB Bank Courtyard during Holiday Happenings in 2013.

For years, downtown businesses have welcomed the holidays on the first weekend of December with a two-day festive shopping celebration that has included stores staying open late with refreshments for shoppers, horse carriage rides on Main Street, a downtown tree lighting, caroling and dancing with Santa.

Called Holiday Happenings, it's been a festive and popular event for local families to attend.

But  this year, it's better described as Holiday Not Happening.

The longtime host of the event, the Andover Business Center Association, has quietly posted on their website that they will no longer be running the event.

"ABCA will not be hosting this year's Holiday Happenings event," said a notice on the web site. A lack of volunteers to handle the big undertaking seems to be the reason.

"We are tight on volunteers and just couldn't do it," said Phyllis Riordan, vice president at ABCA. "We are hoping another group steps up and takes it over."

Riordan said ABCA would be happy to help another group organize a Holiday Happenings event.

"It's disappointing but hopefully another group will step up," said ABCA treasurer Ted Teichert, a former selectman and now School Committee member who grew up in town and has attended many Holiday Happenings events.

Downtown Andover had lots of mom-and-pop type businesses when ABCA was founded. Now, there is more of a national business brand presence on Main Street, including CVS, Starbucks, Kabloom and several banks. Teichert said that makes it tough to organize events with a hometown feel.

Years ago, when budget troubles plagued the Department of Community Services' annual pancake breakfast on July 4, the Andover Fire Department's Rescue Team stepped up with the money to sponsor the traditional event. The AFD group now hosts the pancake breakfast every year.

ABCA is also having trouble filling its top job as there is no president for the group. Former president Holly Nahabedian, formerly a branch manager at Century Bank on Elm Street and a tireless ABCA volunteer, left six months ago. The top spot remains vacant.

Again, a lack of volunteers is the problem, Riordan said.

ABCA is run by volunteers and the group meets every month. It devotes itself solely to promoting and improving the quality of life in the Andover business and service community and members work diligently together, its website says.

"I think some group will step up for Holiday Happenings, at least I hope so," Teichert said. "And, we'll (ABCA) help any way we can."

The Santa parade, which is sponsored by the Andover firefighters, will go on as planned.

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