Hope Mills News

Small-town traditions behind Hope Mills decorations

14decoration 1 It’s a labor of love in late November and early December every year for families everywhere to put up the decorations of the Christmas season in their homes.

But imagine the same challenge on a larger scale, like decorating an entire town. That’s what Maxey Dove and people in the Hope Mills Recreation and Parks Department have to deal with in decking the streets and buildings of the town with the trappings of the Christmas season.

“It’s a lot of stuff,’’ Dove said of the assorted decorations that the town puts up for Christmas every year.

It also covers a lot of territory. “We have banners on Main Street, Trade Street and Johnson Street,’’ Dove said. “We decorate the marquee and the gazebo at the lake.’’ There’s also a manger scene that used to be at the lake but has been moved to the municipal complex at Town Hall this year.

The task of putting up the decorations goes on for multiple days and involves both maintenance staff of the parks and recreation department as well as members of the town’s Appearance Committee.

There are two Christmas trees, both artificial, one at the lake and one at the municipal complex on Rockfish Road.

“They are huge,’’ Dove said. Both trees stand about 20 to 22 feet tall. “They have big metal frames. I think the new one has LED lights. They are both pretty big productions.’’

The banners and many of the other Christmas decorations around town are put in place with the help of a bucket truck from a local electrical contracting firm.

How long do Christmas decoration last? Dove said it varies depending on the type of decorations. He estimates the two Christmas trees will probably be good for about 10 years. Wreaths usually last longer than the Christmas banners.

“Usually, every few years we rotate new stuff in and new stuff out,’’ he said.

As far as the choice of the style of decorations, that’s handled largely by the Appearance Committee, but Dove said they also get many suggestions from people in the town from time to time.

“There are a lot of opinions,’’ Dove said. “We are always looking to do bigger, better and nicer. But at the same time, you have to keep in the back of your mind this is Hope Mills and there’s a certain way Hope Mills does things. Sometimes you’ve got to balance the two.’’

The bottom line, Dove said, is many people have fond Christmas memories of Hope Mills.

“We have several opportunities for families to come out and something for everybody to enjoy,’’ Dove said. “It just kind of gets everybody into the season.

“Seeing the community come together and celebrate the holiday and family is one of the benefits of a small town. People take pride in it, and our volunteers are outstanding. Our Appearance Committee really helps out a lot.’’

Hope Mills Calendar


For details about all meetings and activities, including location where not listed, call Town Clerk Jane Starling at 910-426-4113. Until the Parks and Recreation building has been repaired following damage from Hurricane Florence, some meetings may be moved to Luther Meeting Room at Town Hall at regular dates and times. Those meetings are noted with an asterisk below.

Historic Preservation Commission Wednesday, Dec. 12, 5 p.m., Parks and Recreation Building*

Mayor’s Youth Leadership Committee Monday, Dec. 17, 6 p.m., Front Lobby Meeting Room at Town Hall

Board of Commissioners Monday, Dec. 17, 7 p.m., Bill Luther Meeting Room at Town Hall


For more information on these activities, contact Meghan Hawkins at 910-426-4109.

Breakfast with Santa Saturday, Dec. 15, 8:30 a.m., at Hope Mills Fire Station.

Town Offices Closed for the Holidays Monday-Wednesday, Dec. 24-26, and Tuesday, Jan. 1.

Promote yourself

Email hopemills@upandcomingweekly.com.

Wasted time and wasted taxpayer dollars

12blevins Dec. 3, the Hope Mills Board of Commissioners voted to approve a plan for Phase II of the lakebed project. The engineering firm, Fleming & Associates, has been presenting revised site plans to this board for a year, at a cost of $50,000.

Monday, Dec. 3, the board was told federal regulations have changed since August, when they last discussed the project, and now require municipalities to be fully Americans with Disabilities Act accessible. The board voted to approve the plan with two changes: adding an additional ramp for wheelchair access and adding stairs with handrails to the swim area.

The board initially voted to approve a site plan in July of 2017. Several weeks later they agreed to a $36,000 contract with Fleming & Associates, who would draw the site plan. It’s not clear why this board chose to reject the previous plan or spend an additional $14,000 on site plan revisions. But this newly approved site plan already has an issue. Board members were told Fleming & Associates took issue with some undisclosed aspect and they’re being asked to meet at the lake so they can personally see the problem.

In November, when Commissioner Meg Larson proposed converting the old golf course property into a walking trail, Commissioner Pat Edwards cautioned the board to finish existing projects, like Phase II of the lake, before beginning new ones. The board voted to move forward with Larson’s idea.

Anonymous sources have confirmed there’s no money earmarked to complete Phase II of the lakebed project, but the board has committed to funding the walking trail by April 2019. Early estimates indicate that project could cost the taxpayers as much as $150,000.

After the board moved swiftly to approve a walking trail on the golf course, several new issues came to light. Mayor Pro Tem Mike Mitchell agreed to pay as much as $50,000 for a turn lane on Golfview Road to accommodate visitors to the trail, but the North Carolina Department of Transportation has plans to widen the road within the next three years to accommodate traffic coming from the 295 exits. Any changes made to Golfview Road will be removed to accommodate the additional lanes, which means any money spent on those changes will be wasted.

There’s also a growing safety concern. In mid- November a man was shot in Ed Herring park in the Eaglewood Community of Hope Mills. The shooting occurred during daylight hours. Hope Mills Police Chief Joel Acciardo said Hope Mills Police Department was aware of a growing concern in the neighborhood. He also indicated the crime rates in that park were insignificant compared to the rates in Municipal Park.

The board voted to add benches and trash cans to the walking trail on the golf course but not lights. Signs will be posted informing visitors the park is open from sunrise to sunset. Municipal Park is also open sunrise to sunset. It hasn’t prevented people from entering the park after hours or from committing crimes in the park.

Only a small portion of the new walking trail will be visible during daylight hours, and none of it, nor the parking lot, will be visible after sunset. While Municipal park is in the heart of Hope Mills and surrounded by residential and commercial areas, the golf course is bordered by acres of trees and shrubs. The wooded areas, especially near the creek, have been used by the vagrant community for years. Several years ago, an arsonist was using the wooded area around the golf course to move around unseen after starting fires on the golf course.

It’s also worth noting that town manager Melissa Adams advised the board she’d been in contact with the McAdams Group and a representative is coming to Hope Mills Dec. 10 to discuss the proposed walking trail.

The board has commissioned McAdams Group to conduct an $87,000 survey of Hope Mills assets. The study began with a survey of Hope Mills residents to determine what recreational amenities they want the town to develop. A walking trail was not a priority for the residents, and it may have conflicted with what the experts were planning to suggest for that land.

Larson altered the results of the study when she insisted McAdams Group include a 20-year-old PWC water survey indicating lakebed #2 was necessary for a future water reservoir. PWC has denounced that survey and declared it’s outdated. Now the board is altering the results again by dictating to the experts what they’re planning to develop on that land.

Why spend money on an expert survey if you’re going to alter the validity with outdated documents and develop the land in ways that preclude developing what the citizens want?

It’s clear this board’s members are struggling to find their footing. They’re wasting valuable time on highly anticipated projects while rushing ill- conceived projects. And they’ve proven to be horrible stewards of our tax money.

Ironically, during the December meeting, this board also voted not to allow recall elections. So, while we’re aware of their incompetence, we have no recourse.

German native brings Christmas market experience to Hope Mills

13German market

EDIT: Due to concerns over the rain forecast on Saturday, Dec. 15, the location has changed to the original Dirtbag Ales at 3623 Legion Road in Hope Mills. Please visit the Hayat Yoga Shala page on Facebook for further details. 

 Hayat Hakim has lived in the Fayetteville-Hope Mills area for the past 10 years, but she still has fond memories of the first 20 years of her life spent growing up in Bonn, Germany.

“I was raised going to the German Christmas market every year with my family,’’ Hakim said. “We basically celebrated by going with the entire family. The memories the entire time I was raised in Germany brought such a familiar feeling of community with me.’’

Hakim, who operates Hayat Yoga Shala on Raeford Road, tried to bring the German Christmas market experience on a smaller scale to the students at her yoga studio four years ago.

This year, with the help of Dirtbag Ales Brewery and Taproom, Hakim is putting together a much larger scale event that will be held at Dirtbag’s new brewery at 5435 Corporation Dr. in the Gray’s Creek community. The market is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 15, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.

“Every year at this time, I miss home very much,’’ Hakim said. For some time, she’s been exploring what could be done to bring a little bit of the German Christmas market feel to this community, which she described as versatile and diverse in cultural aspects.

“I realized how much people wanted that experience in their lives; soldiers stationed in Germany, German spouses who came over here with their families,” she said. “They all just miss it. That’s why we are trying to recreate that good feel.’’

An obvious feature of the German Christmas market will be multiple food and drink options. In addition to German-style beer, Hakim plans to offer “glühwein,” a German-Austrian after-ski drink.

“It’s a warmer, sweeter red wine,’’ Hakim said. “It has different ingredients like orange and cinnamon and a homemade recipe of sweetness.’’ She described it as having a Christmas feeling that warms the whole body.

Pastries are also a big part of the German Christmas market experience. A local catering service will be on hand to provide “lebkuchenherzen,” which are gingerbread hearts.

A German food truck will be at the market, and an authentic German café will be recreated to offer dishes familiar to the German community.

German potato salad will be available, along with assorted types of coffee popular to the German community.

In addition to the food offerings, Hakim has commitments from up to 30 vendors for the German Christmas market with a goal of landing as many as 40.

“We have a lot of handcrafted vendors,’’ she said, “from artists to unique jewelry makers.’’

One artist scheduled to appear makes glass ornaments by hand and will be hand-painting them during the market.

There will also be local farmers on hand with displays of produce.

The market will also have a dog park for those who want to bring their pets, as well as a playground for children.

While some of the vendors will accept credit cards, Hakim suggests people planning to make purchases at the market be prepared to bring cash with them.

The event will be held outdoors so Hakim advises patrons to be prepared to dress for whatever weather may develop.

For further information about the Christmas market, including details on specific vendors, visit the Dirtbag Ales Brewery and Taproom or the German Christmas Market pages on Facebook.

Photo: Left to right: Dirtbag Ales staff Nick Demetris, Hope Demetris and Elizabeth Brogan; Hayat Hakim; and Dirtbag Ales co-owner Vernardo Simmons-Valenzuela.

Brady’s absence looms large at Highland Singing Christmas Tree

11Highland Baptist Singing Christmas Tree The annual celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ through the presentation of the Singing Christmas Tree at Highland Baptist Church in Hope Mills will have a dual meaning this season. This year’s performance is scheduled for Dec. 7, 8 and 9 at 7 p.m. each evening.

The choir members, and the congregation as well, will celebrate the memory and ministry of their late choir director, Nancy Brady, who died last May after a second battle with cancer.

It is fitting that Dawn Seegars, a pupil of Brady’s years ago at Hope Mills Junior High School, who later sang under her direction at Highland Baptist, is taking time from her regular job of leading the music ministry at Temple Baptist Church in Eastover to lead the Singing Christmas Tree at Highland. This will be the first Singing Christmas Tree since Brady died.

“She was my junior high chorus teacher at Hope Mills,’’ Seegars said, “and I was a member at Highland under her ministry.”

Seegars said Brady had a way of making anyone who wanted to be a part of the music ministry at Highland feel welcome, whether they had any background in music or not.

Brady was in poor health last year when the Singing Christmas Tree practices began, and Seegars was actually on standby to come in at the last minute if Brady wasn’t able to lead the choir.

When Brady died earlier this year, Seegars said church members reached out to her and asked if she would be able to direct the choir this Christmas season. “I have a large group of friends at Highland,’’ Seegars said. “I love the people at that church. They are precious, sweet people. I’ve always kept in touch, especially with Nancy, trying to help her.’’

Rehearsals have been a challenge for Seegars, dividing time between her full-time job as a nurse at a local gastrointestinal practice and her regular duties with the music ministry at Temple Baptist.

“The choir has been fantastic,’’ she said of the people at Highland. “They have worked so hard on their own, and we’ve had lengthy practices instead of multiple practices.’’

Brady traditionally picked the music for the Singing Christmas Tree each year, mixing traditional tunes with contemporary selections. Seegars has tried to follow in that tradition but insisted on getting input from the Highland singers. “I don’t mind being a leader and helping with the music, but I felt like — and some of the people I spoke with felt like — we really needed everybody to come together and say, yes, we wanted to do this,’’ Seegars said.

The biggest challenge for Seegars was dealing with her personal emotions and those of the choir members as rehearsals began, being exposed to tangible memories of Brady’s presence and influence on the church’s music.

“It was a hurting place,’’ Seegars said. “To walk in the choir room and to sit at the piano where she played parts for all of us to learn choir music from for so many years. To see the notes she had written: The last few practices where they took prayer requests, and it’s sitting there in her handwriting.

“It’s all been quite an emotional journey.’’ The same is true for longtime choir members like Dede Mabe, who has been around since Highland started the Singing Christmas Tree in the mid-1980s.

“Nancy was one of the strongest women I’ve ever known,’’ Mabe said of Brady. The Singing Christmas Tree wasn’t a performance of music for Brady, Mabe said. It was a ministry, the biggest outreach that the church does. “It takes about 100 people to put it all together,’’ Mabe said. “It’s an outreach because you are telling the story of Jesus Christ being born. You are just spreading the word.’’

For Mabe, the most powerful memories of Brady leading the singing of the Singing Christmas Tree every year are yet to come. They will happen during the actual presentation.

When the singers were actually in place, Brady would stand in the back of the church on a scaffold, out of view of the congregation.

Brady wore oversized Mickey Mouse hands that glowed in the dark while directing. “Sometimes she would do little things to make us smile,’’ Mabe said. “She would clap or give you a thumbs-up. If she was really feeling the spirit, she’d throw her hands up in the air, praising the Lord. I’ll miss seeing that.’’

Highland’s pastor, Rev. Zach Kennedy, agreed with Mabe that for Brady, the Singing Christmas Tree was a ministry of the church, not a mere performance of music.

“She wanted people to understand what Christmas was really about,’’ he said. “She wanted them to understand God literally sent his son to become a man. Christmas is all about the beginning of how all people can be saved and brought to aright relationship with God.’’

Kennedy said the Singing Christmas Tree gives the church an opportunity to connect with people who might not come to a regular Sunday morning worship service.

He said the perfect tribute to Brady at this year’s Singing Christmas Tree would be for even one person to attend the event and come to a real relationship with Jesus.

“That’s exactly what Nancy would want and what every one of us should want out of that,’’ he said.

Seating for the Singing Christmas Tree is on a first come, first served basis, and there is no charge. The church has a food pantry and is partnering with the Balm In Gilead Family Counseling Ministries to accept donations of non-perishable food, clothing and hygiene items.

For more information on making donations or on the event, contact the church during regular business hours at 910-425-5305.

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