By David Meade
Williamston’s Christmas Park which normally opens on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, had an early opening this year due to Thanksgiving Day falling later in the month. Organizers said the normal opening date would have allowed visitors to enjoy the decorated park for only three weeks.
Special live entertainment and a live nativity scene sponsored by Calvary Baptist Church will also highlight activities in the park during the holidays. The live nativity will open November 30 and will be presented from 6 – 9 p.m. every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night through December 22. Also on Nov. 30, Cub Scout Pack 356 will have hot chocolate.
Santa will also be in the Scout Hut from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the following dates: Fri. Nov. 29-Dec. 1; Thursday Dec. 5 – Dec. 8; Thurs, Dec. 12 – Dec. 15; and Tues. Dec. 17 – Dec. 23 during the week before Christmas.
There will be special entertainment on the Amphitheater Stage on each of the three weekends in December.
On Friday, Dec. 6 and Sunday Dec. 8, Real Life Church will offer hot chocolate.
On Saturday, Dec. 7, 418 Dance Barn will have holiday entertainment beginning at 6 p.m. Real Life Church Band will perform from 7 p.m. to 8:30. Cub Scout Pack 356 will offer hot chocolate and cookies.
On Friday Dec. 13 and Sunday, Dec. 15, Real Life Church will offer hot chocolate.
On Saturday, Dec. 14, Church of God Restoration Chapel will have clowns and singing. Pleaseant View Wesleyan Church will serve hot chocolate and cookies.
On Friday, Dec. 20 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., the Lusk Family will sing. Real Life Church will serve hot chocolate.
On Saturday Dec. 21, K&M Dance Studio will ofer entertainment from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The Big Creek Baptist Church Cantata will perfrom from 6 p.m. to 8:30. Real Life Church will have hot chocolate on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, Dec. 20-23 from 6 p.m. to 8 pm.
On weekends, the Williamston Fire Department will also offer rides on the town’s antique 1936 fire engine.
The park features several new lighted displays and the recently painted wall mural on the “Bethlehem” building is sure to be a highlight. Dacusville artist Jendi Lindsay was commissioned for the mural which was funded by the Williamston Springwater Committee.
The Springwater Committee also purchased a new lighted display which depicts Joseph with Mary on a donkey. The incandescent lighted display measures seven feet by eleven feet.
The Christmas Park has been a holiday attraction in the upstate since 1958. It is a joint effort by local churches, businesses, individuals and others to convey the Christmas spirit through a unique collection of holiday lights and displays.
Dianne Lollis has organized the annual holiday event for the past nine years with help from members of the Springwater Committee and the Town of Williamston.
Area churches have also participated, offering live seasonal music and refreshments on weekends.
The Pelzer-Williamston Jaycees are credited with originating the Christmas Park idea 55 years ago. They saw it as a “Christmas parade that stands still.” The idea soon became the local tradition that area residents look forward to during each Christmas season. Over the years various groups and individuals have contributed time and energy to erect the Christmas Park. In 1980, citing lack of interest from citizens and no funding from the town, the park went dark at Christmas.
A local resident, Mertie Kelly vowed not to let it happen again, and with the help of others, she helped organized the first Spring Water Festival to provide funding for the Christmas Park.
Generations of local residents and visitors from across the Upstate still recognize the scout hut as the place to visit with Santa Claus when the town’s holiday attraction is open. The log cabin was built for the Boy Scouts with funds raised by the Williamston Lions Club. The club was organized in February, 1940 and the scout hut was one of the first projects of the local Lions. The cabin was dedicated in 1941 and used for years as a meeting place for the Boy Scouts.
Deck the Halls has become a holiday tradition for the town, featuring beautifully decorated Christmas trees in the main hallways of the Municipal Center. It will be open to the public for viewing following the lighting of the park and during regular business hours through the holidays. Hours for viewing trees will be 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.