Most of the beautiful leaves are off the trees and need to be raked. Frost appears on the ground most mornings. The Patriots lost a heart-breaker to the Colts. But there's reason to cheer. The next few weeks are perhaps the best two weeks of community events that Andover offers.

Thanksgiving brings not only the usual Homecoming football game, but one of the Merrimack Valley's premier events, the Feaster Five road race. Thousands of Andover families and others gather each year to walk and run the race, from former Olympians to people whose only other exercise this year may be walking to the mailbox for their next Netflix movie. The point for most is not how fast the event is completed, but how much fun they have doing it. Whatever the weather, the race is always a blast, topped off with an apple pie for the road.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving some of the same families, and many more with young children gather for the holiday parade arranged by Andover firefighters. Those in the parade hand out candy and the festivities end with Santa Claus waving from a fire truck. Santa will return to town the next weekend for a breakfast with Andover children.

Finally, on Dec. 4 the Andover Business Center Association will offer Holiday Happenings, a growing event that offers community activities such as hay rides and a Christmas tree lighting while showcasing the downtown and its shops. Downtown merchants have taken hits this year because of the economy and the Main Street construction project. With that project now complete, they are hoping for a good holiday season. Holiday Happenings is a great time to come together with others in the community and, if you see a gift you like, to offer support to local businesses.

So get out there and enjoy the events. At the very least, they should take your mind off the Patriots' fourth-and-two play, and the reality of approaching snow.

 

Editorial: Debates needed for US Senate

Debates are the best ways for voters to get to know candidates for office — especially when those candidates have never served in a specific office before. Especially when they are not well-known to the electorate. So it is a major disappointment to see Attorney General Martha Coakley, the leading Democrat in all the polls heading into the Dec. 8 primary election for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the passing of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, dodging debates with her fellow Democratic candidates, Congressman Michael Capuano, Boston Celtics co-owner Steven Pagiluca and City Year cofounder Alan Khazei. The only televised debate was more than three weeks ago, on Oct. 26. There was one radio debate and some forums, but nothing head to head. The candidates, as all candidates do, have made extravagant promises of how they will "fight" for any number of causes, groups or principles — the economy, the poor, women's rights, gay marriage, universal health care, energy independence, winning or ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and protecting us from terrorism. So, if they're promising to be effective fighters, why not show us how they do in a rhetorical battle with one another? There are less than three weeks until the primary, and with the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in the middle of it, really only two weeks to help voters make an informed choice. Debates are the best way to do it. That ought to be a priority for all the candidates, including the front-runner.

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