The holiday season is officially underway in downtown Newberry with the arrival of the community Christmas tree! The 25-foot-tall Fraser Fir tree arrived in front of Community Hall downtown on Tuesday afternoon.
Austin Willingham of Willingham and Son’s drove a total of six hours to pick up the tree from Avery Farms in North Carolina to then deliver it back downtown.
Mary Alex Kopp, tourism and events manager said the City of Newberry was grateful for their partnership with Willingham’s and their willingness to get the tree each year.
“People always want to know why we buy a tree from North Carolina versus something closer to home,” Kopp said. “Part of the reason is that we purchase a Fraser Fir in preference because their branches are sturdy enough to support the amount of lights we attach to the tree.”
Kopp said Fraser Fir trees are not farmed any further South than where the tree is purchased because of the climate.
The community will see decorations go up the rest of the week, with everything completed in time for Main Street Lights on Friday evening.
Main Street from Coates to Nance, Caldwell from Friend to Harrington, Boyce from College to Nance and McKibben from Main to Boyce Streets will be closing Friday afternoon at approximately 3:30 p.m. as Kopp said those with booths will be setting up at around 4 p.m. The event is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. and lasts until approximately 8 p.m.
Additions to this year’s Main Street Lights, Kopp said include a new garland style ribbon for the tree, reminiscent of the tree downtown from 2015.
“For the last two years we’ve had these large bows that were used, but back in 2015, we had this really pretty draping gold fabric that went down the sides of the tree and was tucked in,” Kopp said. “We’ll be doing a similar look this year.”
Banners will be placed on the smaller Christmas trees lining Memorial Park to recognize sponsors that donated $1,000 or more to include Sodexo, City of Newberry, Stokes Trainor, Newberry County Council, Clinton Newberry Natural Gas Authority (CNNGA), WC Fiber and Samsung.
A full list of donors will be listed on the gift tags of the large present boxes in front of the tree at Community Hall.
Snow machines will make their way back to Memorial Park this year, Kopp said and will run for the first time on Friday night following the tree lighting.
Prior to the tree lighting, several churches and organizations will have booths set up downtown surrounding Community Hall. Differing from booths at the city’s Oktoberfest event, Kopp said these spots are open to local charity organizations to include churches, food banks and non-profit organizations. These groups will be located on the Main Street side of Community Hall.
Both Aveleigh Presbyterian Church and Lutheran Church of the Redeemer will have information about their churches and will also be giving away candy canes and other treats Friday night.
Local outreach organization, Moving Forward Ministries will be downtown with goody bags, popcorn and brownies on a first come, first served basis. First Baptist Church of Newberry will have hot chocolate available and the Pomaria Community Food Bank will be distributing information, but will also accept food donations to include canned or dry goods.
Kopp said that giveaways are while supplies last for these groups, however asks that families please keep in mind that there are many that attend the event and items are asked to be reserved for children and shared between families.
“It’s not against any rules, but we do want to keep in mind that there will be a lot of people in attendance,” she said.
New to the event this year, Kopp said is a hot mini donut truck, The Donut Guy, based in Winnsboro, SC would be stationed downtown near Wells Fargo and will have mini donuts, coffee and hot chocolate available for purchase.
Kopp said several downtown businesses would be open and may have hot chocolate and other items available too.
The Southern Victorian Society will be downtown singing Christmas carols again this year in full Victorian replica dress. The group is made up of volunteers, Kopp said and organized by Rose Marie Favors. The group will be happy to take pictures with the community, Kopp said and asks that they come early to join them in singing carols.
The official ceremony begins at 6:15 p.m. featuring choirs from Pomaria Garmany Elementary singing “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and Newberry Middle School singing “If I were a Reindeer.” The choirs will be positioned on the balcony of Community Hall.
Following the songs, Mayor Foster Senn and a special guest from WIS News will perform the official countdown to the tree lighting followed by the singing of “We Wish you a Merry Christmas.”
“By 6:30, all the lights should be on downtown,” Kopp said. “We invite folks to walk around and check everything out.”
The Newberry College Madrigal Choir will be walking downtown after the tree lighting singing Christmas carols and lights will also be on display in Astwood Park, Kopp said.
At 7:30 p.m., The Ritz Theater will be open for a free showing of The Polar Express by the Newberry Community Players.
Kopp said roads are set to reopen by approximately 8:30 p.m. Friday evening.
A total of $16,100 was raised for Christmas downtown this year by fundraiser, Anne Pinckney Smith. Money is donated by local families and businesses, Kopp said.
“What’s really special is the fact that we have a community that really champions a beautiful and quaint downtown,” she said. “They donate with the understanding that no one has to pay to look at these lights downtown, as it’s a free gift to the Newberry community during the holiday season.”
More Christmas Cheer
Surrounding the Christmas tree lighting will be the downtown Holiday Open House on November 15-18, organized by the Newberry Downtown Development Association. In addition to what will be going on downtown, patrons will see sales, specials and even some free samples of products at downtown businesses.
“We encourage people to come down, shop local in Newberry and maybe even do some Christmas shopping,” Kopp said.
Beginning Friday and running every Friday through December 21, North Pole Nights will be in Memorial Park from 6-8 p.m. with the snow machines running downtown. The Newberry County Chamber of Commerce will have story time with Mrs. Claus at the Chamber as well as Christmas crafts.
Santa will be in Memorial Park during this time along with a photographer to take photos for children that may want to sit with Santa. The Newberry Arts Center will also be open during this time with inexpensive keepsakes that children can create during their visit.
Kopp said that downtown’s Christmas tourism had gone up dramatically from years past with approximately 2,000 people downtown for last year’s event and anywhere from 100-250 people downtown on a given Friday night for North Pole Nights.
“Last year we got a call from someone who said they heard Newberry was a Christmas town and they wanted to hear all about it,” she said. “Six to eight years ago people weren’t saying that”
As another part of the holiday season, Kopp said they were now taking applications through November 21 for the Gingerbread Competition for adults and children. The grand prize winner will receive $500. Applications can be downloaded from www.newberrychristmas.com or by calling the city’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department at 803-321-1015.
The winners for the competition will be announced on Saturday, December 1 at a breakfast with Santa at the Newberry Arts Center. Refreshments such as muffins, coffee and orange juice will be available as part of the city’s sponsorship with Sodexo, Kopp said. The breakfast is free and open to the public.
Santa’s tours of Newberry will be starting back up this year from 5-6 p.m. several times throughout the holiday season. During this time Santa will be taking a tour of Newberry’s neighborhoods by fire truck. Dates, times and more details on this event can be found at www.newberrychristmas.com.
For those that have social media, the City of Newberry will once again be holding their #AVeryBerryChristmas photo contest. On Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, those that post pictures using the hashtag #AVeryBerryChristmas will automatically be entered into the contest. Kopp asks participants to please make sure their posts are made public or they will not be seen to be entered into the competition.
The photo contest officially starts Friday night at the tree lighting and will run through December 20. Winners will receive two tickets to see the Malpass Brothers at the Newberry Opera House on Valentine’s Day.
“Someone could potentially win, pick up their tickets and turn around to gift them to someone for Christmas,” Kopp said.
The city’s Public Works and Utility department crews put in many hours to get downtown ready for Christmas, Kopp said.
“They do a great job, we’re really proud of what they do and it really shows,” she said. “Downtown is always absolutely picture perfect by the time they’re done. We thank them for their effort they put into making downtown special.”