There are some rousing holiday events on the calendar for this weekend, but none will be bigger than the first-ever lighting of the official Columbia County Christmas tree on Saturday.
This event is a companion to the countys Memorial Day celebration in the spring. Its all done through volunteer labor and donated funding, with help from county employees in the logistics of planning such a celebration.
And what a celebration it will be. It all begins in the parking lot of the Evans Government Complex at 3 p.m., with craft displays and festive food and beverage vendors. At 4 p.m., Santa Claus makes a spectacular entrance with assistance from the Gold Cross Emergency Medical Service helicopter - if its available - and a Martinez Fire Department truck.
Why all the emergency firepower for something so seemingly trivial? Its to make a strong point: The theme of the celebration is Christmas in America, and the intent is to honor our communitys emergency personnel while celebrating the season.
There has been a renewed appreciation for such public servants since the Sept. 11 attacks. At Saturdays tree lighting, representatives from Gold Cross and Martinez Fire, as well as personnel from the Columbia County Sheriffs Office and the countys Emergency Services Division, will have the honor of throwing the switch on the trees lights.
Long before the lights come on, members of the Evans High Band will be selling pictures with Santa to help pay for their prestigious trip to perform in England. At 5 p.m., Grovetowns Terri Gibbs will sing the national anthem as members of the Harlem High School JROTC raise the American flag. That kicks off an hour of performances highlighted by the Columbia County Choral Society and a mass chorus of Columbia County elementary school children, and a community sing-a-long of holiday favorites.
Jennie Montgomery, a Martinez resident and anchor for WJBF-TV 6, will emcee the event and handle introductions of those honored tree-lighters, who at 6 p.m. turn on the power to the 1,000 lights of Columbia Countys official Christmas tree.
Those lights, by the way, are provided by the generosity of county citizens who donated to the Light the Tree campaign and make Saturdays ceremony possible. The donors are recognized today in a display on Page 5, and will be honored Saturday.
Parking for the event is in the Doctors Hospital building across Ronald Reagan Drive from the Government Complex, and in the field behind Kroger in Evans; deputies will assist pedestrians in crossing the street.
This will be an event to remember - and the lights of the tree will help our community remember the public servants who every day put their lives on the line for our safety and security. Thats the best Christmas gift we could ask for.
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