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Grotto's Festival of Lights, choirs help banish darkness; visitors are encouraged to donate canned or dry food for charity

COURTESY: THE GROTTO - The walking tours at The Grotto, 8840 N.E. Skidmore St., take about an hour, and cover about a quarter mile.
If you're a fan of Christmas lights and caroling in Portland, there's a good chance you've been to The Grotto.

A holiday tradition since 1988, The Grotto's Christmas Festival of Lights bills itself as the largest Christmas choral festival in the world. And this year, they've got a baby camel.

On loan from Jozee-Rooz Zoo, the camel is part of a live petting zoo, one of the main attractions. There's also outdoor caroling, puppet shows and indoor concerts by more than 175 school, church and civic choir groups throughout the season.

COURTESY: THE GROTTO - There's a camel for visitors to see at The Grotto.Five indoor concerts happen each night in The Grotto's 600-seat chapel, known for its cathedral-quality acoustics.

You also can grab hot food and beverages, and pick up a souvenir in the gift shop.

When you go, make sure to dress for the weather, and plan to arrive about 30 to 45 minutes before the concert time if you're planning to see a show.

Most visits typically last about 75 to 90 minutes and involve walking about a quarter-mile.

Nightly concerts begin at 5:15 p.m., 6 p.m., 7 p.m., 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.

The entertainment in tents outside runs each night; the master puppeteer presents a Christmas-themed show at 6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.

COURTESY: THE GROTTO - The Grotto is a place to celebrate the season and the reason for the season.The Grotto Carolers perform at 5:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m., and 8:30 p.m. nightly.

Visitors are encouraged to bring a donation of canned or dry food benefiting Snow-Cap, an East County food bank.

Parking is free and volunteer parking attendants are present to direct visitors to the most convenient parking. New this year, there will be an overflow lot with a free shuttle. The lot is located at St. Rita Catholic Church, 10029 N.E. Prescott St.

Grotto admission is $11 per person ($10 for military and seniors; $6 for kids age 3-12).

More info: http://www.thegrotto.org/christmas-festival-of-lights.

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