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City event to mesh music, tree lighting

Through the magic of Christmas, an event combining a music extravaganza with a traditional tree lighting is scheduled on Thursday, Dec. 2, in downtown Mount Airy — where North Main Street will be closed for the occasion.

Rather than ushered in by Santa’s elves, the gathering — to begin at 6 p.m. — has been organized by the Mount Airy Appearance Commission to achieve the best of both worlds, one involving a tree-lighting program at City Hall it’s long spearheaded.

Meanwhile, the musical element debuted last year in response to COVID-19 curtailing both the tree lighting and the annual Mount Airy Christmas Parade, forcing the city to “redo Christmas” in the words of Mayor Ron Niland.

The result was a drive-through caroling event in the downtown area where various musical groups provided live entertainment at various stations along the way as people rode by, capped off with a scaled-down tree lighting outside the Municipal Building.

“And there were some challenges with that, with traffic lined up all the way out West Lebanon and up North Main (streets),” Interim City Manager/Parks and Recreation Darren Lewis recalled regarding unintended consequences posed by folks being restricted to vehicles.

“People came from four counties,” Mayor Niland said during a council meeting last week when plans for the new-and-improved Christmas get-together set for next Thursday were aired.

New format

“It’ll be similar to last year when where we had multiple music groups all up and down the street,” said Jenny Smith, a member of the Appearance Commission who also is on the staff of Mount Airy Visitors Center — but with no vehicular traffic involved.

“All of this will kind of be situated all around downtown.”

About 10 different groups are expected to perform in all, among them the Grace Moravian Church Band, Surry Sings Community Chorus, old-time jammers, a blues band, a Mormon church choir, MAUI (the Mount Airy Ukelele Invasion), the Nonesuch Playmakers Singers, the Voce choral ensemble and others.

They will be set up at venues stretching from Independence Boulevard to Pine Street such as the gazebo on the corner of North Main and West Oak streets, Canteen Alley, Lowry Park at the corner of Main and Pine, Mount Airy Visitors Center, the Robby’s store and a rest area where an Easter Brothers mural is located.

A jazz band also is slated to perform in the Market Street Arts and Entertainment District just west of North Main.

“It’s going to be special because what they’re going to do is allow people to park and walk up and down the streets,” the mayor said of a setup in which they can enjoy the music in a casual setting with North Main Street closed downtown.

“This year it’s going to be kind of neat,” Niland added of the family oriented event resulting from the 2020 experience, “a really nice community celebration.”

He praised the innovation involved. “It’s going to be kind of an exciting new thing.”

The musical groups are scheduled to perform from 6 to 7 p.m., when the Mount Airy High School Marching Band will join the festivities and lead the groups and spectators to the City Hall grounds for the traditional tree lighting.

“Everyone can follow behind the band,” Smith said.

The tree-lighting program will begin sometime between 7 and 7:30 p.m., to also include music, free hot chocolate served by representatives of First Presbyterian Church and a visit by Santa Claus to greet kids.

Activities are slated to continue later in the evening on Market Street.

The Appearance Commission member indicated that the upcoming event will celebrate both the holiday season and a return to normalcy in light of COVID-19 issues.

“I think the overall goal would be just to create that sense of Christmas spirit in our community — especially since we’ve been through so much,” she said.



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