The carriage and wagon rides will return to downtown Lincolnton during the Holiday season as will Santa's House on the North Courtsquare.
(Lincoln Herald File Photo)
Wayne Howard Staff Writer
I have never lived in Lincolnton or Lincoln County. My home has been (with an occasional excursion into other places to work, although I still maintained a residence locally) in Gaston County, about a mile south of the Lincoln County line. My mother's family came from Lincoln County, and I have worked a good portion of my adult life in Lincolnton--including almost 20 years at WLON Radio. Now I write news for the Lincoln Herald.
Lincolnton and Lincoln County have no doubt been the focus of much of my life. When I came to work at the radio station, I noticed the Salvation Army bell ringers in front of Harris Teeter and Winn-Dixie stores. I called the Gastonia Salvation Army office and asked what kind of Christmas help they were providing for Lincoln Countians. I was told that those who lived in Lincoln County were welcome to come to Gastonia for help. That answer didn't satisfy me. Many of the poor didn't have the transportation to travel to Gastonia.
I decided to start the Lincoln County Christmas Fund at the radio station. We obtained names of families needing help--especially those with young children--from Betty Rhyne at the Department of Social Services. We collected toys (new and used), some clothing (although we suggested people take that to the Good Neighbor Shop), food items, and cash contributions--which we used to purchase more groceries.
I was friends with Thad Eure, who was NC Secretary of State, and he helped us get our 501-c (3) designation so those cash and check contributions could be tax deductible for contributors. I and a few volunteers made the rounds distributing bags of groceries and toys to the families whose names we had been given.
A couple of years later, Christian Ministries was formed. Brad Bangle, one of the regular volunteers, asked me to continue accepting contributions through the Christmas Fund and then turn the money over to Christian Ministries which was yet to receive its 501-c (3) designation.
So its obvious that I have a particular soft spot in my heart for the Christmas Fund--still one of the multiple charitable efforts of Lincoln County Christian Ministries. I am told that this year's is the 60th annual Lincolnton Christmas Parade. Most may not know and few remember, but the parade almost failed to be during the late 1980s. The radio station had taken over sponsorship after the Lincolnton Jaycees, the previous sponsor, had come upon some difficulties related to too many of their members being over the 35-year-old age limit. When the station was sold and I departed, City Manager David Lowe called me to tell me that the new owners had decided not to sponsor the parade. I told him that if the City would help, I'd do it. In 1988 and 1989, I ran the parade with the help of the City police, street and other departments.
Nowadays the Man and Woman of the Year, sponsored by the Rotary Club and BPW, are the Grand Marshals for the parade. That wasn't the case back then. For the Grand Marshal in 1988, I chose Gladys Childs. The long-time social reporter for the Lincoln Times-News had never received much recognition or honor, and I thought it was time. The next year, I chose Eugene Modlin, a math teacher at Lincolnton High School, who likewise had been overlooked during his career.
In 1990, the Jaycees had reorganized and took back over as parade sponsors and it has continued every year since. In recent years, the parade has been held on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. This year, it will be on November 25th at 4 PM. As usual, it will start at Flint Street and proceed down Main Street to the Courtsquare, then north on Aspen Street to the Lincolnton High School parking lot.
Radwan Yousef, who operates Habibi Frozen Yogurt on the West Courtsquare next door to his brother Osama's Court Street Grille, told us he liked it when a couple of years ago the route was changed and the parade went all the way around the Courtsquare and then down E. Water Street to disassemble, but most seemed to prefer the route including Aspen Street so that is what is now being used. [When I was in charge of the parade back in the late 1980s, the parade started at the LHS parking lot, then proceeded east on Main Street from the Courtsquare.]
If you want to be a part of this year's parade, you need to register by this Thursday (November 15th). Businesses who want to have a float or other entry in the parade are required to pay a $40 entry fee; non-profits and beauty queens, etc. are charged a $20 entry fee; fire departments and other public service entries don't have to pay an entry fee. Vendors who want to sell cotton candy, candied apples, etc. are also required to pay a fee. ["Back in the day" we didn't charge an entry fee, but the cost of producing the parade has increased, and they now give awards for the best business entry, best non-profit entry and best holiday theme entry. We didn't give awards back then, but the best entry most years was the one from Carolina Mills, which operated plants in Lincolnton and Maiden. Employees there built a new float every year, and those floats were beautiful.]
The parade is followed by the lighting of the Christmas tree on the east side of the Courthouse. In years gone by, a live tree was cut from somewhere in Lincoln County and brought to the Courtsquare. It was sometimes dangerous (I know, I accompanied the trek to town on multiple occasions) and expensive (multiple man-hours were expended for that cause and the City had to get help from Electric Departments in Gastonia and Maiden to help get the tree to town). The City Council voted last year to purchase an artificial tree from the firm that supplied Hickory with theirs. That Catawba County company now stores the tree, then puts it up on the Courtsquare and makes sure it's in good working order. It saves the City over $20,000 annually.
The tree is known as the Pilot Club Christmas Tree. Back many decades ago, the lights on the tree were turned on one by one as donations were received for the Pilot Club Scholarship Fund. Now the lighting occurs all at once in the evening following the parade. The Pilot Club still collects gifts at Christmas for its Scholarship Fund, but the name and recognition is all that's really left of that tradition. This year's Tree Lighting will begin at 5 PM or shortly afterward and will include music and a short program.
Santa's House returns to the North Courtsquare this year. It was moved there last year after being placed on the east side of the Courthouse not far from the Christmas tree the year before. The problem with that location was that you had to cross the street to get to it--and that was dangerous for children. So it was moved back to its former location on the North Courtsquare last year. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at Santa's House each Thursday, Friday and Saturday from November 29th through December 22nd.
The Carriage and Wagon Rides also return this Christmas, now with two locations for beginning and ending rides--one in the 100 block of East Main Street and the other in the 300 block. The rides will also be available November 29th through December 22nd from 6:30 - 9:30 each evening. You can't make a reservation; it's first come, first served. The cost is $10 per person for carriage rides, $5 per person for wagon rides. Children under two can be brought along on your ride for free. The rides are a wonderful (and romantic) way to see downtown Lincolnton in all its Christmas splendor. There are, of course, many other Christmas season activities to enjoy in Lincolnton and nearby.
The Lincoln Cultural Center will hold its annual Handmade for the Holidays event this Friday (November 16th) 5 - 9 PM and Saturday (November 17th) 9 - 3. Admission is free. Dozens of artisans and crafters will have items for sale including ceramics, jewelry, knitted clothing items, leather goods, soaps, wreaths and other holiday decorations, luxury baked goods and more.
The United Way of Lincoln County will hold its 2nd annual Carolina Christmas Gala Friday November 30th from 6 - 9 PM at Vesuvius Vineyards on Vesuvius Furnace Road (located between Amity Church Road and Beth Haven Church Road off Highway 73). Tickets are on sale now: $10 in advance or $15 at the door (if available). Space is limited. They'll have food, drinks, live music from local favorites Carolina Ridge, the return of the Christmas photo booth (sponsored by Atrium Health), and Christmas Trees decorated by partner agencies for auction, a silent auction, and this year a $500 CHRISTMAS CASH RAFFLE (sponsored by the Treadstone Group). For more information or to reserve tickets, call the United Way office at 704-732-8055.
The Lincoln Theatre Guild and Denver Christian Academy will present "A Fairy Tale Christmas Carol" at the Lincoln Cultural Center Friday November 30th, Saturday December 1st, and Sunday December 2nd; then reprise the opening weekend with a second weekend of shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday December 7th-9th. Performances will be at 7 PM Fridays and Saturdays, 3 PM Sundays. "A Fairy Tale Christmas" is a spinoff on the tale of the infamous Ebenezer Scrooge; but this presentation will be a bit different from the classic Dickens tale. It will feature fairy tale characters in the roles of Scrooge, Bob Marley, etc. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students and senior citizens.
It's a party with a purpose: Santa's Sac is scheduled for Saturday December 1st at Lincoln Country Club. The 6th annual Santa's Sac, an event to collect Toys and Monetary donations for Lincoln County Children's Organizations such as: Christian Ministries , A Place to Grow, the Lincoln County Coalition Against Child Abuse , Communities in Schools and Back Pack Ministries. The event will include music and dancing, food, beverages, and a silent auction of items donated by local businesses.The Senior Center on S. Academy St. at the Lincoln Campus of Gaston College will hold a Christmas Craft Bazaar Thursday Dec. 6th and Friday December 7th 9 - 3 each day. Shop for handmade crafts made by senior citizens and enjoy their Hot Dog Sale and Bake Sale. This year's Breakfast with Santa will be Saturday December 8th at the Lincoln Cultural Center. Children of all ages will enjoy a pancake breakfast cooked by Santa's helpers, create a keepsake with the help of the cast of "The Nutcracker," and best of all, get to tell Santa what they want for Christmas. There will be lots of photo ops with Clara and her friends and Santa himself. Tickets are being pre-sold at the Cultural Center office during regular hours. Admission is $10 per child which allows up to two adults to accompany them at no additional charge. The Lincolnton High School Band Christmas Concert will be at the Citizens Center Monday December 10th at 7 PM. Admission is free. The 12th annual production of "The Nutcracker" is scheduled for Friday December 14th and Saturday December 15th at the James W. Warren Citizens Center. Emma Grace Ramsey, daughter of Shannon and Jason Ramsey, will be featured in the role of Clara (some spell it Klara). The role of the Nutcracker will be prefomed by Sydney Nester; Madison Crowder will be the Mouse King; McKenzie Denis, the Snow Queen; and Kayla Jackson, the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Other roles will be Hadleigh Curles as the Dew Drop Fairy, Carley Starnes as the Reed Flute Princess, Madison Price as the Arabian Queen, Mollie Gilmore as the Ballerina doll, Katelyn Parker as the Soldier Doll, Kaitlyn Thompson as the Jester Doll, Hope Bryant as Fritz, Jade Asaro as Nanny, Katie Kester as the Spanish Dancer, Tristan William and Gwen Reep as the Chinese, Kallie Barker and Katie Starnes as Russians, and Rionna Weldon and Christina Zawacki in the roles of American Beauty Rose.
Seven dance schools will have a hand in preparing for the production: Expressions, Xtreme Edge, Stars and Steps, Alternative Steps, Glamorous Productions, Star Struck, and Rhonda’s School of Dance. This production is a community effort featuring local dance students.
While the performances will be at the James W. Warren Citizens Center (6:30 PM Friday December 14th and 2 and 6 PM Saturday December 15th), all proceeds will benefit the Lincoln Cultural Center and will be utilized for the ongoing operations and programming of that facility. All seats are $10, children 3 and under enter free. Tickets are available now at the Lincoln Cultural Center, 403 East Main Street. The Lincolnton High School Chorus will present its Christmas Concert at Emmanuel Lutheran Church Monday December 17th at 7 PM. Admission is free. As you're finishing up your Christmas shopping and getting set for the Holiday, take a break and enjoy the sounds of the season. The Arts Council of Lincoln County will present "Come Home for Christmas," a community Choir singing your favorite Holiday songs. Admission is $15 to the event at the James W. Warren Citizens Center Friday December 21st and Saturday December 22nd at 7 PM each evening.
Speak Up for Children will NOT have a Holiday Tour of Homes this year. They are, however, already planning for one for the Christmas season next year.
We're sure there are other activities about which we haven't yet reported; we'll attempt to add those to future articles. Also be sure to see our other articles about holiday events including parades.
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