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Scene in Manchester: Holiday lights in a limousine

Special to The New Hampshire Union Leader

November 18. 2012 9:07PM

It's Thanksgiving week, and I know some of you are thinking about putting up your Christmas lights this weekend. Or maybe you are one of those particularly spirited people who puts up your lights the day after Halloween.

The Scene and Grace Limousine want to see pictures of your displays. The reader who submits the best lights display, in the judges' opinion, will win a three-hour Holiday Lights Limousine Tour. Keep reading to learn how to enter.

My family has a tradition of taking our own holiday lights tour around the city. But whenever we start to venture outside our comfort area to look for lights, we end up driving aimlessly, getting frustrated and returning home with cranky kids. So I was excited when I heard I could take a limousine around to look at the lights instead.

Grace Limousine President and CEO Michael Campbell said the company started offering tours three years ago at the recommendation of a client, Kristen Carroll. Members of his staff are sent out into Manchester and beyond to find the best displays for the tours. The itinerary changes based on where each client lives, but past tours have ventured out to Candia, Bedford, Salem and Windham.

If you would like your display to be considered for Grace's tours (and the prize), submit a picture by emailing it to Even if you live too far away to be on the tour, we would still like to see your display. If you win, you may have to drive a bit to redeem your prize. Grace will pick you up anywhere in the Greater Manchester, Nashua or Concord areas.

In your email, please be sure to write Christmas Lights Contest in the subject line and tell me your name, age and address. We would appreciate any other interesting information about the display, such as why you love it, the number of lights you use and the effect it has on your electric bill, or mishaps you encountered while creating it.

For a list of rules or to submit your entry online, visit Submissions must be received by Thursday, Dec. 13.

Grace Limousine's Holiday Lights Tours will run through Christmas Eve and start at $199 for a group of nine people. They'll pick you up at your house and even provide cocoa. Guests are welcome to bring their own snacks and adult beverages. To book your tour, call Grace Limousine at 666-0203.

Black Friday shopping

I love when life comes full circle. Last week I was chatting with Erica Auciello Murphy about Black Friday shopping and she reminded me that I worked with her on Black Friday about a decade ago. I was a fledgling reporter who had never even heard of Black Friday and she was a public relations representative for the Mall of New Hampshire.

Back then, Auciello Murphy was there to help me make connections with crazed Christmas shoppers. Today, she is the crazed Christmas shopper.

Auciello Murphy, of Manchester, and mom, Cheryl Simmons, of Laconia, have been hunting post-turkey bargains since Murphy was just 8 years old. They learned a lot about the do's and don'ts of Black Friday shopping over the years and were recently interviewed by Boston's WBZ-TV to be a part of its holiday shopping preview, scheduled to air tonight at 11 p.m. Their tips for Black Friday shoppers will also be featured Thanksgiving morning at 6 a.m.

Auciello Murphy said she and Simmons are those people you see lined up outside the store in the dark before the stores open. It all starts on Thanksgiving morning when they rush out to grab the New Hampshire Union Leader's biggest edition of the year and lug it back to the house to spread the sales fliers out on the table. Then they compare pricing, make lists and map out a route based on each store's opening hours.

"We don't get up early because we never go to bed on Thanksgiving night!" Auciello Murphy told The Scene in an email. They head out after Thanksgiving dinner and hit the stores, most of which open between 10 p.m. and midnight, and arrive back home the next day between noon and 2 p.m.

I am exhausted just thinking about it. But if I was ever to attempt Black Friday shopping again (I had one traumatic experience a few years ago) I would try to tag along with these ladies because they make it sound like a blast. Last year they arrived at one store for its 4 a.m. opening and grabbed their deals. But the checkout line was so long they realized they would never make it to the next store on their list in time to get the deals they wanted there. Did these veteran shoppers give up? Of course not. They stashed the items under some bath mats on a shelf in the home furnishings department, knowing it's not really a prime location for Black Friday deals.

"We got to the next store just as they opened and got the deals we wanted there, then went back to the previous store, checked the bottom shelf and all of our items were still there, and no long checkout lines to deal with!" Auciello Murphy wrote.

Auciello Murphy said it's not about trampling people to get a deal. "It's a long-standing family tradition that lets us spend time together, get into the holiday spirit with our fellow shoppers and get some great deals."

And after getting most of her shopping done in less than 24 hours, she gets to enjoy the month of December while the rest of us tear our hair out looking for the latest must-have item.

Of course this year I may just hunt in the home furnishings sections of all the stores hoping to find some of Auciello Murphy's forgotten stash.

Grab a rake for seniors

I had a great time raking for Seniors Count two Saturdays ago. Seniors Count is an Easter Seals program that helps the elderly maximize their independence and quality of life. The fall clean-up is a wonderful way to help local seniors who don't have the physical or financial ability to clean their own yards.

Raking my own yard is a task that I dread every year. But at least I have the physical capability to do it. I can't imagine seeing all those leaves pile up without the ability to rake and bag them. Raking for Seniors Count is much more enjoyable than doing your own yard because raking with a team for a good cause makes it a fun and fast process.

If you would like to help, call 634-1169 or email It's an excellent way for high school students to get some quality community service hours they may need for graduation. Event of the Week

There are several high school reunions this weekend listed on The holiday is a perennial homecoming for those who have left our Queen City for distant, but by no means superior, locales. If you are from Manchester, I find it's best to leave the house as if you're going to a reunion all weekend. You never know which former crush or high school nemesis you're going to run into picking up cranberry sauce at the grocery store. My goal is simply to shower and clean the baby drool off my shirt before going out each day. It's the least I can do.

And since you're going to be dressed up anyway, why not head over to the Verizon Wireless Arena for Trans-Siberian Orchestra. For the first time, the group will be performing its acclaimed rock opera, "The Lost Christmas Eve." Performances are Saturday at 3 and 8 p.m. Visit for more information on these and other events.

If you would like to have your event considered for The Scene's Event of the Week, enter it into the free calendar. If you have an interesting item for Scene in Manchester, email it to

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