For the past two years, a small group of Columbia County volunteers has been committed to bringing Christmas cheer to the Evans town center.
A visual symbol of that center is the Justice Center, an impressive, imposing courthouse that opened in 2002. Just a few months after its opening, the facility's landscaper and builder gave the community a living Christmas tree.
Rather than cut down and haul in a new tree each year, Columbia County strings bright lights on its living tree. Those lights will come on Saturday when Christmas in America, Columbia County's tree-lighting ceremony, is celebrated for the third year.
As in previous years, this year's ceremony has new joys to bring - including those lights. Thanks to the generosity of community donations, lights this year also will illuminate the balconies and the cupola of the Justice Center.
Those lights will come on at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, 2003. Harlem officially starts the Christmas season by lighting its city tree Thursday; Grovetown lights its tree Friday evening, and the city's parade starts at noon Saturday.
Then, at 3:30 p.m. in front of the Justice Center, adult and youth runners are sought for the inaugural "Santa and Elf Run." Runners are expected to dress up like Santa or elves, at least in a hat or beard, and the winners get trophies and prizes.
More importantly, the entry fee is $10, or $5 with a new, unwrapped toy. Proceeds from the run help support the Columbia County Foundation for Children, which next week throws an annual Christmas party for some 200 disadvantaged kids. Boxes also will be on site for additional donations.
Santa arrives at the courthouse at 4:30. Parents are welcome to bring a camera to get a picture of their children with Santa, and members of the Harlem High School drama team also will be on hand acting as elves. They'll be taking photos for a fee, with proceeds helping support the team's trip next year to a prestigious Scotland festival.
The Christmas in America ceremonies begin at 5:30, with performances by the Lakeside Middle School Ladies Ensemble, the Columbia County Choral Society, the Columbia County Elementary Schools Mass Chorus and the Vineyard Church Worship Team. There's even an opportunity for the audience to sing along.
The tree, and the courthouse, will then light up at 6:30 p.m. - a spectacular, heartwarming display sure to jump-start the holiday spirit.
There will be plenty of food on site - even free hot chocolate, thanks to the folks from the Vineyard - and vendors will display their wares for convenient Christmas shopping.
It's a great event, opening the way to what the song accurately calls "the most wonderful time of the year." See you Saturday!
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