● By John Lee
Weeks before Santa Claus makes his roof landings and descends chimneys, the communities awaiting him do their part to set the stage for Christmas. In fact, late November and early December offer the most opportunities to catch the holiday spirit in Eastern North Carolina.
Mr. Claus, of course, is the headliner in one of the first big events on the Pitt County holiday calendar – the Greenville Christmas Parade. But the parade is only the tip of the iceberg when highlighting your calendar for the Christmas holidays.
Consider the various options for soaking up the season to be jolly without leaving Pitt County:
* It Starts With The Tree – Uptown Greenville will kick off the holidays in style on November 30 with a tree lighting ceremony at 5:30 p.m. that will also feature rides on the Jolly Trolley, holiday readings from local leaders and singing and dancing from Pitt County talent. Another group that takes its trees seriously is the Family Support Network Festival of Trees, which features more than 100 trees decorated with a variety of themes at the Greenville Convention Center from December 1-20. If your child would like to tour the trees and visit Santa at the same time, you have two options for Storytime with Santa – December 1 at 9 a.m. or December 6 at 6 p.m.
* I Love A Parade – The early part of the month is parade central in Pitt County, and parade aficionados would have to suspend time to make it to every one. But if you want to give it a try, start with December 1 in Greenville at 10:30 a.m., a parade that includes more than 150 entrants. Later that day you can head west to Fountain to enjoy that town’s parade at 2 p.m.
Next is Ayden’s annual Christmas parade, on December 6 at 6:30 p.m. Two days later on December 8, brace yourself for parade saturation with three – Farmville at 10:30 a.m., Bethel at 11 a.m. and Winterville at 2 p.m. The town of Bethel was planning for seven marching bands, bagpipes and more in their parade, with every church in town hosting Christmas festivities that morning, according to mayor Mike Whitehurst. *
The Songs of the Season – Musical offerings in Pitt County provide ample opportunities for music lovers to catch the holiday spirit. On December 1, the Greenville Choral Society’s Children’s Chorus and Youth Chorale, along with the Bella Voce Singers, will present their winter concert at 3 p.m. at The Memorial Baptist Church. For ticket information, visit www.greenvillechoralsociety.com.
Several featured concerts at East Carolina will also give audiences a dose of Christmas melodies. The Raleigh Ringers, an advanced handbell ensemble that has released five CDs and a DVD called “One Winter Evening at Meymandi,” will share their harmonies on December 1 at 8 p.m. at ECU’s Wright Auditorium. The ECU School of Music will also perform a free holiday concert featuring the wind ensemble on December 2 at 3 p.m. at Wright Auditorium and a free holiday choral concert on December 4 at 7:30 p.m.
Also, for a traditional celebration of the season featuring music and ballet, the N.C. Academy of Dance Arts will present “The Nutcracker” on December 8 and 9 at Wright Auditorium. For more information about performance times or tickets, visit www.danceacademyofnc.com.
* In Case Santa Needs a Little Help – Every local retailer will be abuzz with holiday sales and promotions, and that old Saint Nick will once again become a fixture at the Greenville Mall. For those looking for more distinctive gifts, try the ECU School of Art and Design Holiday Exhibition and Sale, which will be held November 29 through December 1 at the Jenkins Fine Art Center. The event will feature a variety of unique offerings from art students and other local craftspeople, including ceramics, metals, jewelry, textiles, paintings, prints, sculpture, photography and more.
Finally, if all of that shopping makes you long for a diversion, plan your Greenville Mall excursion on December 14-15, when a full slate of local acts will perform at the mall’s Sound of the Seasons. From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. each night, local choirs, bands and groups will perform favorite holiday songs.
Article by Bethany Bradsher