(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Many communities in York County are celebrating the start of the holiday season with tree lightings, parades, choir performances and other events.
At Winthrop University, the campus community came together for the 87th annual Christmas tree lighting, Dec. 2, on the lawn in front of Tillman Hall.
“The tree lighting is a beloved Winthrop tradition. It began in 1935 when the Young Women’s Christians Association asked Mr. LP Culp, who was director of campus facilities at the time, to select a Christmas tree for campus and Mr. Culp selected the Southern Magnolia tree you see now,” said Lori Tuttle, executive director of the Winthrop alumni association.
“It’s grown to the big tree we see now on campus. We estimate around 200 people on the front lawn every year. That’s an estimate of course, because we are competing with the Rock Hill parade that’s lined up on Oakland, but we see community members, faculty/staff, alumni and students all gather on the front lawn of the tree lighting each year.”
Tuttle said the alumni association has started streaming the event on the group’s Facebook page in recent years.
“It is so amazing to see how many alumni in particular join us around the world. A few years ago we had alumni join us from France, from Germany, who were giving their holiday greetings and hellos on Facebook live. So we really had to make this an event that you don’t have to be here in Rock Hill on campus. It’s now an event that all our alumni and friends can enjoy virtually,” Tuttle said.
In Rock Hill, the annual ChristmasVille event was held Dec. 1-4 and featured a parade, music, food, horse and carriage rides, ice skating and lots of lights.
One popular part of the event, includes a performance from the Winthrop RockHettes, which is named after the famous Radio City Rockettes in New York.
Kelly Ozust, an assistant professor of dance, has worked as a choreographer for the group since she started teaching at Winthrop in 2014.
“It’s really special to me, because it’s one of the only performance opportunities that we have in the department that actually goes out into the community. A lot of times we ask the community to come to us for things like the dance concerts and our theater shows, but with the RockHettes we are able to go. We actually don’t even do any performances in house,” Ozust said.
She said the group also performed at the Winthrop tree lighting and a Rock Hill retirement community.
“I think it’s really important that the department has a presence in the community and it’s just really nice to be apart of the Christmas part of the community, because it just. It’s fun and it brings joy to people and I really enjoy it,” Ozust said.
Rachel Dawson, a new faculty member in the theatre and dance department, said she enjoyed attending ChristmasVille for the first time.
“I thought it was really really nice. It was bigger than what I was expecting it to be. There were a lot of different food trucks, a lot of vendors there, which is very fun,” Dawson said. “I thought it was really fun. People seemed to be having a good time. I had a good time.”
For many others, attending the event is something they do every year and for Nevaeh Woolins, a Winthrop senior, she noticed a difference from recent years, which were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“ChristmasVille is something I’ve gone to since my freshman year at Winthrop and with COVID happening, each ChristmasVille has been a little different. S,o with it kind of being back to normal this year, it just brought back a lot of nostalgia,” Woolins said.
“It’s really unique. I’ve lived a lot of places, I moved around a lot growing up and even as an adult and I’ve never lived anywhere that has a Christmas festival like this. And it’s neat, because it brings the community together, but it’s also, like, very small town. It’s quaint, it’s cute, but in all the good ways,” said Ozust.
The town of Fort Mill celebrated the holiday season with its annual Christmas Village and Lighting of the Tree event on Dec. 1 at Fort Mill Amphitheater.
The event feature live music, food, crafts, alighted trackless train and a 50-foot Christmas tree, which was officially lit at 6:08 p.m. It also drew a number of vendors, who were selling their products.
“I made my version of Little Debbie cupcakes, or Little Debbie Christmas tree cakes. I think they taste better than them, because they’re fresh made,” said Heidi Reppert, owner of the Fort Mill Bakery.
“We are selling these logs that are bird feeders. We really enjoy birds, so we like to put bird feeders out in the yard and birds come out and just enjoy what we have,” said Trent Chwialkowski, who was working the stand with his wife Elisa.
The town also held its 75th annual Christmas parade on Dec. 3.
In Lancaster, the Pleasant Dale Baptist Church hosted its second annual Fall Bazaar last month, which many people took as an opportunity to start their Christmas shopping.
“All the ladies and gentlemen come and just get into the spirit of getting into Christmas, fall, winter and…the main goal is just getting to see people they haven’t seen in a while,” said Myran Jones, an organizer of the event.
“We have been doing this for the last couple of years. Me and a couple of other women, who are members of the church, and we are doing this to raise money.”
The event drew local businesses and had many handmade items for people to buy, such as dog collars, home signs, key chains, jewelry, t-shirts and kitchen items.
“I like the fact you get to see stuff that is not in general stores like Walmart or Target. It’s mostly like handcrafts and it’s fresh for the eyes. Also, for the fellowship, getting to meet new people and interact with people you have not seen for a while,” said Annabeth Allen, a member of the church.
* Aiden Liles, Jessica Lopez, Keha McKinney & Taylor Rawlinson contributed to this report.