Photo by Heather Middleton
By Joel Hall
The Morrow Business and Tourism Association's annual Christmas in the Park event will be held this year at Olde Town Morrow.
This year's event will include the grand opening of several shops in the Olde Town district, and will feature a national chili cook-off, Mt. Zion Baptist Church's "Walk Thru Bethlehem" experience, 44 tons of imported snow, and a variety of holiday activities, according to organizers.
Christmas in the Park will take place at Olde Town Morrow from 2 to 7 p.m., on Saturday, Dec. 5.
Morrow Business and Tourism Association President and Executive Director Mike Twomey said several stores, including Maguire's Family and Friends Irish pub, Incredible Southern Poundcakes, Christi Trees ornament and decoration shop and Olde Town Quilts, will be open for the first time.
"We have had it [Christmas in the Park] at City Hall for the last two years and we have really maxed that place out," Twomey said. "I think Olde Town Morrow is going to be a neat addition to this area. It [Christmas in the Park] will kind of be the kickoff. There are still some vacancies. I love the new venue because the permanent businesses that are there ... they [visitors] will get to see them on a first-hand basis."
In its third year, Christmas in the Park has become the city's largest annual event, according to Morrow Tourist Center Event Coordinator Lauren Singleton, with an average attendance of 4,000 people. In addition to performances throughout the afternoon by 12 local choirs, 35 churches, businesses, and nonprofits will host walk-through vignettes offering children's activities and product giveaways.
"It's not your typical festival where somebody has a table and they are handing you some information," Singleton said. "You are actually being invited into their vignette, which is much more personable. Each of the vignettes also has activities. Whether it is coloring pages, decorating ornaments or decorating cookies, there is something for everybody to do."
For the first time this year, according to Singleton, Christmas in the Park will host a Chili Appreciation Society International, Inc.-sponsored chili cook-off, in which 25 cooks from a number of Southeastern states will show off their prize chili to the public. Between 2 and 7 p.m., visitors will have a chance to try and rate each chili. The winner will be announced around 7 p.m., prior to the lighting of the Christmas tree at Olde Town Morrow, she said.
In addition to a "singing tree" for choir performances, the "Lil' General" trackless train will take children and adults on tours around the Olde Town Morrow property. Throughout the event, visitors will also be able to experience "Walk Thru Bethlehem," a recreation of Bethlehem around the time Jesus lived. The "Walk Thru Bethlehem" includes merchants, guards and shepherds (with livestock), dressed in period-appropriate costumes.
As with every year Morrow has hosted Christmas in the Park, the city will import snow, according to Singleton.
"When Mike Twomey first wanted to do a Christmas event, he wanted to have a big Christmas tradition in the county because three years ago, there wasn't really a strong Christmas tradition here," said Singleton. "We're shipping in 44 tons of ice and we're chipping it up there on site, so people can sled in it."
Twomey said he believes the free event will help raise the profile of the area.
"These events bring people from all over to the city," Twomey said. "It promotes Morrow, but it helps all of the cities around here. I think it shows that Morrow, and this side of town, is an extremely viable place to do business."
While the event is free, vendors will be on site, selling food, crafts and other products. Olde Town Morrow is located off Southlake Circle in Morrow, adjacent to Southlake Mall.
For more information, call the Morrow Tourist Center at (770) 968-1623 or visit www.morrowtourism.com.