Area residents can expect many jolly additions to Columbia County's annual tree-lighting ceremony Saturday at the amphitheater in Evans.
The eighth annual Christmas in America Festival will start with the singing of seasonal melodies during a Christmas concert, which is new to this year's event. The program starts at 3 p.m. with a variety of musicians performing on stage.
"People love Christmas music," said Sean Frantom, of For The Fans Entertainment, the group sponsoring the concert. "I think right now, the way our country is, people are looking for something to get their minds off of the day-to-day of the world."
The acoustic-type concert will include music performed by five acts. The following musicians will take the stage: Pat Blanchard from 3-3:30 p.m., Ship of Fools from 3:30-4 p.m., Tara Scheyer and the Mud Puppy Band from 4-4:30 p.m., Jayson Sabo from 4:35-5 p.m., and The Shoals from 5-5:30 p.m.
"It's a very diverse crowd of artists," Frantom said.
Santa Claus will take a break from preparing for the busy holiday season to take pictures with guests, and several arts and crafts, as well as food vendors, will be on site.
After the Christmas concert, dancers with the Columbia County Ballet will perform a short scene from their The New Nutcracker production, followed by performances from the Dickens Carolers and the Columbia County Elementary School Mass Chorus.
The tree-lighting ceremony will begin at about 6:30 p.m. with 2008 Columbia County Merchants Association Fair queen Jocelyn Victoria Harper serving as an honorary tree-lighter.
"We have more lights this year," said Columbia County Events Manager Stacie Adkins. "A lot more trees are lit. We've got a music box where the trees will go with the music."
Also new to this year's festival is a toy drive for the Columbia County Foundation for Children. If the temperature isn't too chilly, an outdoor showing of Elf will be held on a 30-foot-screen after the tree-lighting ceremony.
"If the weather is good, we hope people stay for the movie," Adkins said. "It'll be neat. There will be popcorn. There will be hot chocolate. The concessions will be open.
"It would be a neat thing just to stay and watch and have a good time."
Admission is free, but guests are asked to give an unwrapped toy to the toy drive.
"There's going to be a lot of volunteers that are there to take gifts," Frantom said. "There's no gift too small."
For information about the Christmas festival, call (706) 312-7191 or visit www.columbia countyga.gov.
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