12012010christmasornament.gifIt’s the most wonderful time of the year, and one of the most enchanting, too, as homes and entire neighborhoods deck the halls with holiday decorations and light displays. And who doesn’t like to ooh and ah at the magical twinkling exhibits while driving by? This year, take a greener, more healthful and family-friendly approach to viewing the sights and sounds of the Christmas season. Attend Christmas in the Park, December 8-22 from 6-9 p.m. at Arnette Park, 2165 Wilmington Highway, Exit 100 off Highway 87 in Fayetteville. Admission is $2 per person.

“This is the first year that Christmas in the Park, sponsored by the Fayetteville-Cumberland Parks and Recreation, is being held,” said Erica J. Brady, special events coordinator. “Fayetteville-Cumberland Parks and Recreation has considered doing this event for many years and this year decided to move forward with it to give the citizens of Fayetteville and Cumberland County an opportunity to view Christmas lights without having to travel to neighboring counties.”

But this special holiday event is not your usual pack-the-car-full-of-folksand- slowly-snake-through-displays-of-pretty-lights affair. Christmas in the Park is filled with activities for everyone in the family.

“We’ll open up that Wednesday night,” said Brady. “The $2 fee will be collected as you enter the park, and then you’ll just spread out to one of our parking lots and go over to the half-mile paved walking trail, which is a new addition at Arnette Park, and at your own leisurely pace, just walk around. Out in the center of the trail we will have our main attraction piece of the display, a 30- foot, three-color Christmas tree. It will be lit with green, white and red lights. We’re still in the planning stages, but our plan right now is to put six, 16-foot trees around that tree, and then 12, six-foot trees around those. Those trees will be programmed. We’ll have a cycle of songs playing, and these lights will be dancing to that music. In addition to that main focal point, we’ll of course have lights all around the trail.”

No family fun Christmas activity is complete without a visit from jolly old St. Nick, and he’s booked a special engagementat the park.

“We’ll have Santa with us each night, and for $5, you’ll be able to take a photo with Santa, which will be put in a commemorative frame and given to you right there on-site. We’ll also have arts and crafts, a couple of food vendors, and we’ll be showing a variety of short cartoon movies by the picnic shelter each night as well. We will have a fire pit for roasting marhsmallows on-site too. Our plan right now is to have live entertainment on the weekends. Participants are encouraged to bring a blanket to sit on to enjoy the entertainment.”

Although the program begins on Wednesday, Dec. 8, the grand opening is on Friday, Dec. 10 beginning at 6 p.m., and will include a welcome from local dignitaries, special entertainment from Voices of the Heart, a grand entrance by Santa in some outlandish way and the lighting of the central Christmas display.

In addition to pictures with Santa, visitors may also buy a commemorative ornament.

Only cash is accepted for all purchases, and animals other than service animals are not permitted.

This year, start a new holiday tradition to observe the beauty of the season –– slow down and take a walk in the park. For more information on Christmas in the Park, visit www.fcpr.us or call 910.433.1547. For inclement weather, call 910.306.7325.

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