By Valerie Baldowski
The cities of Hampton and Locust Grove are gearing up to ring in the holiday season, with their annual tree-lighting ceremonies. Both are scheduled for Thanksgiving night at 7 p.m.
Hampton's third annual Christmas tree lighting will take place at Depot Park in the city's downtown area, according to Hampton Main Street Director Candy Franklin. The city's 30-foot-tall tree has new lights and decorations. The old lights and decorations were replaced this summer, after 10 years of use, Franklin said.
"We had it re-lit with light-emitting diode (LED) lights that take less energy," she said. "They [the new lights] are supposedly indestructible."
The Christmas tree will also sport new red bows, and oversized snowflakes, between six and eight inches in diameter.
Franklin said Michael Lind, Mr. Teen Special Henry County, and Rebecca Heaton, Miss Teen Special Henry County, along with Hampton Mayor R.W. Coley, will plug in the lights to illuminate the tree.
During the program, free cocoa, coffee and cookies will be served at the Hampton Depot, located on East Main Street in the city's historic downtown district, she added.
Music will be provided by the youth choir from Southside Church of God, who will sing two to three songs in Creole French, said Steve Hutchison, a Hampton City Council member, and the emcee for the tree-lighting.
The Praise Team from First Baptist Church of Hampton also will sing, said Hutchison.
"We usually have 200 to 300 [attendees], if it's nice and warm," he added. "It brings a lot of people out, after eating turkey all day. It puts people in the Christmas spirit."
Nearby, Locust Grove will have its sixth annual tree-lighting ceremony in front of City Hall, said Linda Hutchison, downtown development coordinator for the city. The ceremony will include a visit from Saint Nick.
"Santa Claus comes in that night on a fire truck, called 'Little Red,'" she said. "It's our antique fire truck."
Locust Grove City Councilmember, and Mayor Pro Tempore Robert Price, will welcome the attendees. Councilmember Otis Hammock will give the invocation.
Music will be provided by the Piers family, from Locust Grove, students from Bethlehem Elementary School, and vocalists, Bryanna Salaz, Eddie and Tyler Hullen.
Sherrie Ferguson, Miss Special Henry County, and Adam Roll, Mr. Special Henry County, will also be on hand, according to Linda Hutchison.
The annual ceremony is a popular event with local residents, and past tree-lighting ceremonies have drawn between 500 and 600 attendees, she said.
"They come rain or shine. They love it. They really like seeing Santa Claus arrive," said Hutchison. "They have had Thanksgiving dinner, and they want to get out in the evening."