The lights go on Monday evening (Dec. 2nd) in Christmastown, USA, the Gaston County community of McAdenville.
The town will kick off its 64th year of the popular free attraction at 5 PM with a ceremony in front of the Pharr Family YMCA. After Monday, the lights will be on at 5:30 PM through Dec. 26th (until 9:30 Mon-Fri and until 11 PM Sat & Sun). McAdenville events include the 71st annual Yule Log Parade Thursday Dec. 12th 5 PM and the Christmastown, USA Parade Saturday Dec. 23rd 9 AM.
The tradition of the lights got started when the owner of a textile mill in the town thought it would add a nice touch for the Holiday season. For many years, Pharr Yarns supplied the lights to town residents. They were always in three colors--red, white and green, no blue Christmas here! The lights remain in the three colors, and many of the other traditions of Christmas continue. People from all over North and South Carolina come to see the lights every year, and visitors from all over the world have come from time to time. Television news crews from as far away as France, Germany and Australia have covered the big story about the big lights.
Steve Rankin with the Christmas Town Committee says “Living in McAdenville is like living near Disney World. You walk out your door, and bam! Six-hundred-thousand red, green and white lights greet you. As we stroll down Main Street, at the Baptist Church, there's a Nativity scene, and beautiful Christmas music rings out the sounds of the season. Rounding the curve, just in front of the Pharr Yarns main office, is one of most photographed attractions, the McAdenville Lake.
"Preparations for the Christmas show begin in August. Things really get busy in November. More than 30 timers, placed throughout McAdenville, are required to accomplish the task of turning the lights on and off each evening. The length of the route and the number of trees lighted makes it impossible for the lights to be turned off and on manually. With the tree lights on timers, the lights go off each evening at the scheduled time, regardless of the number of cars still in line."
With thousands of visitors expected to drive through the area (over 750,000 visitors last year), the NC Department of Transportation has placed message boards on I-85.
- The ramp from I-85 north to exit 23 (NC 7) will be closed each night during the Christmas event.
- Drivers coming from Charlotte should use US 74 (Wilkinson Boulevard) into McAdenville; or take Exit 27 (NC 273) from I-85 south to U.S. 74;
- Motorists driving north on I-85 should use Exit 22 (Lowell) into McAdenville.
However you get there, expect the time it takes to drive through the town to be considerable, so take a bathroom break before going. If you're able, parking your vehicle and walking through a part of the town is advised.
Rankin says visitors need to “pack plenty of patience, both driving and walking through town. Come early on the weekends, park and wait for the lights to come on.”
Rankin suggests walking is a better option to see the lights, but please be respectful. “Please stay on the sidewalks,” he says. “All decorated homes are private property and visitors should never walk through the yards or approach the homes at any time.”
Due to the large number of vehicles expected in the area, motorists should expect delays and slow down during the holiday season. One option for is to arrive early, between 5 – 5:15 PM, find a parking spot and wait for the lights to come on at 5:30.
For more information, visit the event website.