Were lighting Columbia Countys Christmas tree Saturday, and its hard to believe this is just the second time for this grand event.
Until last year, Columbia County didnt have an official Christmas tree. Grovetown has its tree already glowing, and Harlem turns on the lights Thursday. The two cities have held tree-lighting ceremonies for years, along with their annual Christmas parades.
And, of course, the Columbia County Merchants Association - the epitome of civic pride - has held its Martinez parade the first Sunday of December for the past three decades.
But it wasnt until last year that Columbia County had its own Christmas tree. Even so, were beginning to wonder how we ever got along without one.
This years Christmas in America tree lighting marks the second year, but its the first year the lights are strung on the countys permanent tree at the new Justice Center. Thanks to incoming County Commission Chairman Ron Crosss company, CCI Construction, and the facilitys landscaper, Four Seasons Landscaping, a freshly planted Carolina Sapphire cypress is adorned with lights and ready for festivities Saturday - and for Christmases in the future.
The event Saturday promises to be even better than last years, if thats possible. Santa Claus will arrive at 4:30 p.m. via Martinez Fire Department truck, and listen to childrens Christmas wishes for the next hour. The Evans High School Debate Team will help keep the lines straight and take pictures for a small fee to help raise funds for a trip; moms and dads are welcome to snap their own photos, too.
The Evans debaters are just one school group participating in the festivities. During Santas time, the Greenbrier High Jazz Ensemble will play, and later Greenbriers JROTC will raise the flag to kick off the ceremony at 5:30, as Evans High senior and 4-H member Jamie Steele sings the national anthem.
The largest group of students to participate will be the Columbia County Schools Mass Chorus, made up of students from all the countys music classes. The youngsters will assemble to give full voice to a handful of songs - including what has become the signature sign-off for Columbia County events, Let There Be Peace On Earth.
Theres plenty more music, too: the Columbia County Choral Society provides its professional-quality music to the event, and the praise band from Vineyard Church will lead the crowd in a singalong of Christmas favorites and provide encore music after the tree is lit.
Lighting the tree itself carries rich symbolism. Last year, after the 9-11 attacks, the Christmas in America committee felt it important to honor members of emergency services agencies. Thus, honorary tree-lighters represented law enforcement, fire-fighting, emergency services and emergency medical services.
This year, with the festivities falling on Pearl Harbor Day, the events organizers have called on Chaplain Col. Calvin Garner, USA retired, to throw the switch at 6:30 p.m. Garner, a Pearl Harbor veteran, represents not just survivors of the nations worst wartime sneak attack, but all veterans who have proudly served our country.
Vendors will provide food and beverages at the event, so come prepared for an uplifting afternoon. (Go see the Grovetown parade first and make a day of it!) And be sure to bring blankets and chairs; seating at the site is limited.
See you Saturday!
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