Columbia County will soon become illuminated with holiday cheer.
Harlem's holiday event on Thursday will kick off three evenings of tree-lighting ceremonies in the county.
The city's annual tree-lighting ceremony will begin at 6:30 p.m. with North Harlem Elementary and Harlem Middle school's choruses singing Christmas carols.
"It's kind of like a kickoff for the Christmas season," said Denise Carter, an event coordinator. "It's usually a big event here, especially with the kids from the schools."
The 14-foot tree will be lit in front of Harlem City Hall. Christmas decorations, including garland, wreaths and lights, were put up in the downtown area last week, Carter said.
Free hot chocolate, cookies and popcorn will be offered to guests.
After the tree is lit, Santa Claus and his elves will visit and take pictures with children.
"They look forward to it," Carter said of city residents. "Kids get to see Santa Claus."
The city of Grovetown will start its Christmas festivities next with a tree-lighting event scheduled for Friday.
Guests will begin gathering in the parking lot of the city's senior center at about 6 p.m., event coordinator Vicky Capetillo said.
This year, Santa Claus will serve as the honorary tree lighter, and David Daughtry Jr., son of David Daughtry, former Grovetown councilman who died in 2008, will emcee the event.
"His dad always did it in the years past," Capetillo said.
Harlem Middle School's band and the Grove Baptist Church choir will perform for spectators. Free cookies, hot chocolate and coffee will be served.
The city's 20-foot tree and several areas at Old Wrightsboro Road near East and West Robinson Avenue will be lit up, Capetillo said.
She said the city is adding more lights to other areas in the city this year, including some residential streets.
"We have everything lit up," she said. "We're trying to extend out some of the lights instead of just the main streets in town, so the Christmas spirit is just all through the city."
The county's final tree-lighting ceremony will take place Saturday, Dec. 5, in Evans during the ninth annual Christmas in America Festival.
The event will be held from 3-7 p.m. at the Columbia County Amphitheater and Memorial Gardens.
Arts and crafts vendors will set up at 3 p.m. with entertainment beginning at that time as well.
Community Events Manager Stacie Adkins said the county has ordered two snow machines to be placed at the 20-foot Carolina Blue Sapphire Cypress tree.
"It's two snowmen, and the snow comes out of their hat," Adkins said. "They'll shoot about 15 to 20 feet up in the air."
Santa Claus also will be in attendance.
Honorary tree lighters this year are Lt. Edwin Larkin, with the Commander of Warriors in Transition Battalion at Fort Gordon, and 2009 Columbia County Merchants Association Fair Queen Tiffany Scott. The tree will be lit at about 6:30 p.m., Adkins said.
Choruses from Bel Air, Evans, Martinez, North Columbia, South Columbia, Riverside and River Ridge elementary schools will sing Christmas songs together at about 6 p.m. The Columbia County Ballet also will perform.
The festival is free to attend, and new, unwrapped toys will be collected for Columbia County Cares.
Last year, more than 1,000 people attended the event, Adkins said. More than $1,000 worth of lights were added this year to decorate the amphitheater and park area, she said.
"It just kind of gets everybody in the holiday spirit," Adkins said.
Harlem tree-lighting ceremony
When: 6:30 p.m.; Thursday, Dec. 3
Where: Harlem City Hall, 320 N. Louisville St.
Grovetown tree-lighting ceremony
When: 6 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 4
Where: Old Wrightsboro Road near East and West Robinson Avenue
Ninth annual Christmas in America Festival
When: 3-7 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 5
Where: Columbia County Amphitheater and Memorial Gardens, behind the Columbia County Library
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