Wright also invited members of the Askew family of Greene County onstage before the countdown to thank them for donating the tree that was grown on their property.
The celebratory event surrounding the tree lighting kicked off at 6 p.m. when the students of Lake Oconee Academy's Jazz Band performed a set of classic holiday tunes as twilight turned to nighttime. Then, underneath a beautiful crescent moon, Santa came down Main Street not in a red sleigh, but on hay bales in a big wagon being hauled by a giant red tractor with his own City of Greensboro police escort; it seemed Santa and his helpers knew that they were coming to a town with long and proud agricultural heritage. After greeting the large crowd assembled in front of the courthouse, Santa headed over to his workshop next door to The Yesterday Cafe. A long line of kids stood waiting to meet with him, wish lists on their minds. The line extended all the way down the block on Main Street, which was a pedestrian-only zone for the evening (except for Santa's tractor driven by Ray Foster, which carried families on hayrides throughout the downtown area all evening).
It was truly a community affair as many area organizations and businesses offered up volunteers and vendors for the event. Santa’s Workshop and the Hay Ride were operated by members of the Lake Oconee Area Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Members of the Knights of Columbus along with Greene County High School members of FFA and DECA provided aid in the set-up and cleanup of the event. Fran D’Antonio, also of the Knights of Columbus, provided his talents as the master of ceremonies on the community stage. City of Greensboro’s Fire Department showcased their Fire Truck for the revelers, and the Beta Club of Greene County High School hosted the Bounce House for the little ones. First United Methodist Church set up a craft booth for the children and the Knights of Columbus passed out hot cocoa and apple cider. Sweet Sensations served up hot soups and burgers for sale in the “Christmas Café.” Local churches and organizations - Liberty United Methodist Church, Global Harvest Ministries, Delicious Bakery Goods, Sugar Britches Crochet and Belle Colour– sold a variety of baked goodies, crocheted items and jewelry to interested passersby.
Skies were clear and the air crisp with a seasonal chill as the community came together in the holiday spirit to celebrate the longstanding tradition of the tree lighting. They sipped hot cocoa and noshed on holiday sweets while taking in the entertainment that, along with the LOA band, included a group of young dancers from ArtsBarn, the Grace Fellowship Vocal Team, the Eatonton Harmonettes, pupils from the Ruth Cosby School of Dance and Nathanael Greene Academy student vocalists, Bonnie Brown (accompanied by Susan Higdon) and Anenaca Simspon on guitar.
The pet-friendly event also drew a number of well-behaved pups on leashes who seemed to be taking their owners on walks rather than the other way around. Downtown merchants stayed open later than usual for the event as the crowds bustled in and out of shops browsing and buying holiday gifts. Many shop owners will stay open late on weekends until Christmas, so if
you missed the tree lighting, you can still come and enjoy the festive cheer of downtown Greensboro during the holidays.