Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2015 - 07:42:25

Christmas comes to light in downtown Hopewell
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Dec 7, 2012, 13:55

photo by Caitlin Davis Santa Claus and Princess Snowflake watched as Hopewell lit its tree on Thursday.

Lights lined East Broadway and shone over Ashford Civic Plaza on Thursday night as residents turned out to get a dose of the Christmas spirit at the annual tree lighting.

The sound of the kind of jingling bells that inspired the popular Christmas song punctuated the festivities as part of the holiday event’s newest attraction.

“I think everybody thinks it’s really cool,” Evan Kaufman, Interim Director for the Hopewell Downtown Partnership said as line formed for rides in a horse drawn carriage. “All the kids have been oohing and ahhing.”

The horse and carriage, decorated in bells, ribbons and wreaths, pulled riders down Broadway and proved to be some people’s favorite part of the festivities.

“It was fun, cold, but fun,” Ashley Brown said.

She and her sister, Jessica, hopped off the carriage, wrapped in blankets with their hoods pulled up and drawn tight.

The sisters said that although this is their first year at the tree lighting ceremony, it will probably not be their last year.

“I’m glad we were able to get down here,” Jessica said. “It is nice for them to do this.”

The Browns also enjoyed was seeing many of the downtown shops lit up under the strings of Christmas lights and decorations lining Broadway.

Kaufman involving the city’s downtown merchants in the festivities was one of his goals for the evening. He said that goal is part of a bigger plan to get the streets of downtown full and alive once again, something he said many people waiting in line for carriage rides told him they would like to see happen.

“People that live here really have a passion for it,” Kaufman said. “A genuine passion. They want to be proud of this city. They enjoy the ‘mom and pop’ stores and to really be a part of this community.”

A sea of hats, gloves and scarves filled the area around the official city Christmas tree, ready to see it illuminate downtown.

With the help of Santa’s magic and Snowflake Princess, Kya Nicole Keyes, and cries of “thee, two, one,” the tree began to twinkle along the eyes of people in the crowd.

“That’s the fun part, it kind of unifies the downtown in a Christmassy spirit,” Mayor Christina Luman-Bailey said, watching the tree burst into light.

Bailey, like many, said her favorite part of the evening was the horse drawn carriage and the vibrant scene in the downtown business district.

“We are so thankful to the downtown merchants who are keeping Christmas alive in downtown,” she said.

Amongst those enjoying the evening were a number of soldiers from Fort Lee, brought by First Sgt. Clinton Parker.

“We just brought some soldiers out to bind that bridge and come out and support the community,” Parker said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Parker said the soldiers, riding carnival rides and riding in the carriage, were from all over the country and world, from Hawaii to Alaska to Germany and Korea.

“Most of the time, all you know about an area is what you see on the news,” Parker said. “You need to come down to the area and get involved.”

As the crowd finished snapping pictures with Santa under the city’s Christmas tree, Bailey noted evening brought a much needed positive spirit to the community, just in time for the holidays.

“If you combine Santa, a Christmas tree and a horse drawn carriage, that’s Christmas,” Bailey said. “It brings out the kids in people, the positive side.”

The festivities are not over for visitors to downtown Hopewell. Businesses in the neighborhood are handing out scavenger hunt sheets that offer the chance to win a $100 gift card for downtown shopping, along with a gift basket filled with items sold in downtown stores.

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