By Joel Hall
For many long-time, metro Atlanta residents, the holiday activities at Rich's downtown department store signaled the start of the Christmas season.
The lighting of "The Great Tree," riding the "Pink Pig," and caroling on the bridges are cherished Christmas memories for many.
For the second year in a row, the City of Morrow will attempt to recreate the spirit of Christmas that once existed at the now-defunct department store.
Morrow's second annual "Christmas in the Park" will take place Saturday, Dec. 6, from 2-7 p.m,. at Milton Daniel Park, near the Morrow Municipal Complex. The event will feature: imported snow, and activities, arts and crafts, hosted by churches, non-profits, and businesses from around the Southern Crescent. It will also include choirs, with orchestra and band performances throughout the day.
Mike Twomey, president and executive director of the Morrow Business and Tourism Association, said the idea behind the event is to recreate the festival atmosphere of Rich's, while promoting the area's goods, services, and religious organizations.
"When Rich's department store was in business, they had a big tree lighting at the downtown store," said Twomey. "If you were invited to sing at the tree lighting, that was a big honor. I wanted to recreate that.
"We wanted to include churches and businesses from all over the Southern Crescent," because "it gives them a chance to showcase what they do," said Twomey.
In the spirit of Rich's "Pink Pig" monorail system, the "Lil' General Train" will transport children and their parents around the entire park. This year, two stages will host musical performances, one featuring a "singing tree," a Christmas tree-shaped rafter system for choral groups.
Toward the end of the night, the city will light a 40-foot-tall Christmas tree to signal the start of the holiday season.
Whether it is making Christmas ornaments, decorating cookies, or making advent reefs, each of the more than 40 organizations scheduled to participate will offer something free for children to enjoy. Other groups will have arts, crafts and food for sale.
The Morrow Civic Woman's Club participated in last year's "Christmas in the Park" by hosting a fund-raising raffle for The Good Shepherd Clinic. This year, the organization will raise money for the Tallulah Falls School in Tallulah, Ga., by hosting a "Ladies' Tea Room."
For $5, visitors to the tea room will be treated to a variety of finger foods, sandwiches and hot drinks, including tea, chocolate, coffee, and apple cider. The proceeds will go to help the Georgia Federation of Women's Clubs -- which owns the college preparatory school -- build a new second level for its high school, to accommodate a rising number of students.
Peggy Wilson, president of the Morrow Civic Woman's Club, said the event helps usher in the Christmas season, while giving local organizations a voice.
"We're just a civic organization that tries to do anything we can in the community," said Wilson. "[The event] allows us to reach out to the community and let them know what we are all about.
"It feels great that the community has something like this to celebrate this time of the year," Wilson said. "A lot of people don't celebrate Christmas like they should anymore."
C-TRAN is providing free shuttle services throughout the event to accommodate the expected lack of parking near the Morrow Municipal Center. Shuttles will pick up at: First Baptist Church of Morrow; Morrow Elementary School; Morrow First United Methodist Church; Morrow Masonic Lodge #734; National Archives and Records Administration; St. Augustine's Episcopal Church; and the parking deck near Morrow Plaza.
Milton Daniel Park is located at 1500 Morrow Road in Morrow. For more information, call (678) 614-3824.