NEWBURY — The gifts are unwrapped. The stockings have all come down from the chimney. But don't be so quick to toss that dry Christmas tree to the curb.
Newbury Fire Rescue is collecting as many trees as it can get its hands on for its second annual Old Newbury Bonfire on Saturday, Jan. 14, on Tendercrop Farm's growing fields at 71 High Road.
Lt. Jonathan Kelley said organizers didn't expect the crowd of about 4,000 adults and children who turned out for last year's inaugural event.
This year, Kelley is expecting an even bigger crowd and an even larger bonfire. The department is on track to amass more trees than last year, when 18, 30-cubic-yard containers were filled with evergreens.
"The first one went awesome," he said. "A lot of people saw it as a fun thing to do," he said. "There's not much to do in January, and this is something for the kids and families."
It's also in keeping with tradition when ash was used to fertilize the land.
"Back in the day, they used to do it for farming," Kelley said. "It was good for growing the crops."
In addition to Tendercrop Farm, Newbury Fire Rescue has partnered with Historic New England, which operates the adjacent Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm on Little's Lane off High Road, for the event.
The fun gets under way earlier this year, at 3 p.m., and there will be plenty of activities before the bonfire gets lit — from a treasure hunt and Christmas tree toss with prizes for the winners to a marshmallow roast and a steady stream of music.
The late-17th century manor house at Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm will be open for tours, and there will be skating on the pond on the Tendercrop fields, as well as sleigh rides and sledding, weather and conditions permitting. A variety of raffles is also planned before the event winds down at 9 p.m.
Several area restaurants and vendors have signed on to participate. Plum Island Beachcoma will be serving chili, Starboard Galley is making a batch of corn chowder, Mad Martha's will be plating meatball subs, and Oregano's will be offering pizza. The Fire Department rounds out the menu with hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages and fried dough.
On the drinks menu will be selections from Mill River Winery in Rowley, the Ipswich Ale tap truck, rum drinks from Turkey Shore Distilleries, and coffee and hot chocolate from Plum Island Coffee Roasters.
Admission is free, but there will be a charge for food, drinks and various activities. Newbury Fire Rescue is charging $5 for parking, which will be at the entrances to Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm and Tendercrop's fields.
Proceeds will support the nonprofit Newbury Fire Rescue, which operates both the Newbury and Byfield stations. Money raised will go toward funding a new fire engine to replace the 1989 truck currently housed in Newbury.
Trees are needed to fuel the bonfire. They may be dropped off for free before Jan. 9 at the fire stations in Newbury at 3 Morgan Ave. and Byfield at 44 Central St. Area residents can also arrange for pickup of trees for about $5 by calling 978-462-2282.
Trees can also be brought to Tendercrop's fields the day of the event, although a $5 fee will be charged then, as well.
For more information on the event or donating a tree, visit www.newburyfirerescue.com.