LAUREL HILL — This year’s Christmas Tree Lighting is third in what the LaurelFest Committee hopes will be a tradition for years to come.
“We’re trying to bring a little bit more spirit into our town,” said Connie Coleman, member of LaurelFest.
The event began with a warm welcome, a prayer and thanks to everyone who donated money for the event tree. The donations received went to purchasing refreshments, lights, the tree, the stage and other essentials needed to make the event happen.
Locals gathered around the tree and the long-awaited countdown started: Five. Four. Three. Two. One.
The crowd was silent until the 6-foot-tall Christmas tree suddenly glowed. The children standing closest to the tree were in awe as they admired the tree dotted with tiny colorful lights of red, green, white, orange and blue.
After the lighting of the tree, gospel and Christmas music began performed as revelers chatted, munched on cookies and sipped cups of hot chocolate. A few singers got up on stage and performed Christmas carols while the children decorated the tree with ornaments provided by the LaurelFest committee as well as ornaments that they brought themselves.
Nancy Shelley, proud native of Laurel Hill and member of LaurelFest, said that the committee worked hard to set up and prepare for the event and they “wanted to bring back some of the old carols” with the music selections.
Many of the little ones stood on their tip toes to try and reach as high as they could to place their ornament.
“This is our way of making it everybody’s tree,” Coleman said. “We wanted to see our town bright and happy.”
Later, Shelley went on stage and told a quick Christmas-themed story and Santa finally arrived to take photos with the children and listened intently as they told him what they wanted for the gift-giving season.
The LaurelFest committee is made of up several volunteers and an executive committee. About 300 people showed up to the first Christmas Tree Lighting event, over 100 attended last year and it was estimated that about 150 people came this year.
Charlie Fipps, member of LaurelFest, said that the committee was established about 13 years ago.
“It started with a block party and turned into a hullabaloo,” he said.
The nonprofit organization grew from there, dedicated to serving the community and making it a more enjoyable place to live.
Larnell Shaw, executive member of LaurelFest, said that the event was in honor of “love, peace and friendship.”
“That’s what it’s all about,” he said.