Let the Festivities Begin!

Your key to unlock the season of good will, good times and good eating is in your hand. Or upon your lap. Or waiting for you, like a present to be opened, in that special place you keep Bay Weekly.

The key is Season’s Bounty, stuffed inside this week’s paper. This annual special is our gift to you, delivered early to guide you through the long winter holiday season. 

Since October, Bay Weekly has been a miniature of Santa’s workshop, with every one of our elves laboring to bring you this gift on this day, the last quiet weekend before Thanksgiving is upon us — and with it the holiday rush.

Our elves are few and the job mighty. But we think that the best gifts are made by hand at no expense of labor. This is the best gift we can make.

Starting with Diana Beechener — who introduces this year’s Bounty with a Night Before Christmas-style description of the gathering of 648 occasions of fun — we all set to work to make Season’s Bounty 2010. 

Diana and intern Aries Matheos compiled the calendar of seasonal events, stretching from Thursday, November 18 thru Friday, December 31 — and onto January 1, 2011. It took Diana 41,000 words to fit it all in. Saturday, December 4, is the fullest of all those days, offering you 61 events to choose from — plus the illuminations that continue all season long plus long-running shows and sales plus a dozen or so opportunities to catch Santa Claus.

Our festive collection stretches beyond Chesapeake Country, to Washington, Baltimore, National Harbor, Antietam and Ocean City, because the holiday spirit thrives on excursions. Not that Anne Arundel and Calvert counties couldn’t keep you busy for this old year’s 49 last fun-filled days.

I could start with the Annapolis Business Association’s Home for the Holidays Ball on November 18 — dancing and feasting to raise money to decorate our capital city in holiday finery — and fill every day and night of my calendar here in Chesapeake Country.

So could you. I hope you will. 

Here’s how to use Bay Weekly’s Season’s Bounty to make the most of the last six weeks of 2010.

First, feel its heft. That weight is our promise of many good things to come. Before you plunge inside, enjoy Betsy Kehne’s choice of cover, Santa on a walk in the woods, communing with the woodland creatures. That image inspired my plan to hike in the woods on Thanksgiving morning. If I were Katie Dodd, our writer who does such things, I’d dash over to Camp Letts for the annual Turkey Chase 10K race.

Now, step inside. 

In the 63 pages that follow, you’ll find inspiration and guidance for hundreds of ways to celebrate the wonderful winter holidays.

Events are organized in four sections. First come Illuminations, the holiday light shows. Next come Shows and Sales, the section devoted to events running thru much of the holiday season. Third is every kid’s favorite, Santa Sightings. Last is Day by Day, a calendar chronicling events that last a day or three. Some return weekend after weekend; these you’ll find repeated throughout our calendar.

Diana and Aries’ job was assigned and edited by me. Alex Knoll edited again as he compiled it in the pretty form you now read. Dick Wilson and Margaret Tearman proofread all 41,000 words. But I’m the last reader, so if you find errors, blame me.

For each listing, we’ve included phone numbers and often websites. Please use them to confirm that you’ll arrive to what you expected.

That’s not all there is to Season’s Bounty. Completing the 64 pages are advertisements of opportunities and pleasures local to Chesapeake Country. The businesses that buy these ads are the ones to thank for bringing you Season’s Bounty. For they pay our bills. Please, thank these advertisers by buying their goods and services as you shop this season and all year long.

Lisa Knoll and Victoria Ronan are the elves who do Bay Weekly’s selling; Betsy Kehne designs the advertisements.

Our work is done. Now you’ve got to go to work on making your season bountiful. Settle down with Season’s Bounty and a highlighter. Scan it all now, coloring events you don’t want to miss. Go through all 64 pages; many events require early reservations: Wait until the day of, and you’ll be out of luck.

Mark your picks and make your reservations. Soon you’ll have a full datebook. Chesapeake Country is ready to party — but the festivities won’t start until you get there.