Nov. 21—BLUEFIELD — Children and adults alike watched and smiled Monday evening as the annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony brought holiday music and color to Bluefield City Park and the upcoming Holiday of Lights.
Bluefield Primary School students with the Across the Years Choir kicked off the tree lighting ceremony with renditions of "Jingle Bells" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." They prepared for Monday's festivities with help from a Chorus America grant under the Bluefield Area Revitalizations Corporation.
"I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and a wonderful Christmas," City Manager Cecil Marson told the onlookers. The tree is usually erected in downtown Bluefield, but it's standing at the city park this year due to preparations for upcoming demolitions.
Preparations for the tree lighting and the Holiday of Lights have been underway for weeks.
"Yes, Candy Sayers (director of public works) and the whole public works team did a great job and we really appreciate the board for all they've done," Marson said as the music played. "We've got these Christmas huts this year. We kind of tested them during Oktoberfest, but we're going to use them for our little Christmas village here. We've got a lot of work downtown with some of the demolition remediation that Jim Spencer and his team are doing, so we decided this year to move everything down to the park and try it out this year because of all the construction. So we're looking forward now to Thanksgiving night and Holiday of Lights. We've still got some work to do so the team is still working between now and Thanksgiving and it should be really nice."
This year the Holiday of Lights will include light displays at nearby Mitchell Stadium and the new Mistletoe Christmas Market with local vendors.
"We've got the new lights at (Mitchell Stadium) which will be incorporated into it and we'll have a nice area here. Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights — basically Thanksgiving until New Year's — you can come down here and walk the park, visit vendors and food trucks, skate and do all kinds of great things," Marson said.
Visitors coming to the Holiday of Lights will still be able to drive through the park and enjoy the displays, but now they will be able to get out of their vehicles if they wish to do so. There will be carnival rides as well as vendors.
"It will be like it always has been, every night you can drive through (the park), but the added benefit this year is if folks want to get out and ride some of the carnival rides or visit the vendors Thursday, Friday, Saturday night you can park down here and feel free to walk throughout the park," Marson said.
After the ceremony, children and their families lined up near the Christmas market for a chance to meet Santa Claus in his hut and share their holiday wishes.
Deputy Director Craig Strahm of the Public Works Department and other department employees readied the Christmas tree for its city park shows. The tree was inspired by similar displays at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
"Surprisingly, it only takes two days starting assembly to full programing," he said. "It's only two days worth of work. It will cycle between the musical show where the lights flash and the music goes, then it cycles to changing color for a half hour. Then at the top of the hour it will start the show back over again."
The tree will be performing every night during the Holiday of Lights though the music will be turned down Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights for the holiday market so people can talk to the vendors, Strahm said.
Madeline Brown, 4, of Bluefield said she liked the musical Christmas tree because "it has my favorite lights."
Eight-year-old Arabella Hammonds of Bluefield gave the musical Christmas tree a smile and the thumbs up when she was asked if she liked it.
The Annual Holiday of Lights at Bluefield City Park officially opens Thanksgiving at 6 p.m.
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