The Christmas season began with a bang Saturday during The Augusta Chronicle Christmas Light-up Spectacular in downtown Augusta.
A full day of events transpired around Augusta Common including the Miss Augusta Scholarship Pageant 2011 Christmas Fantasy Parade, the lighting of the tree and a fireworks display.
Hundreds of people lined the sidewalks about 3 p.m. as holiday-themed floats traveled down Broad Street.
Richmond County 4-H was in the parade for the fifth year. The group’s handmade float’s theme was “Santa’s little helpers” and was covered in brightly colored toys and presents.
“It’s Christmas,” said Cindy Piper, a volunteer with the 4-H program and mother of two of its members. “The kids get into it and that gets you into the spirit.”
Marching bands also performed in the parade. Even Minnie, Mickey and Donald Duck made an appearance with the Capital City Ambulance Service.
Helen Usry, 77, and her granddaughter Valerie, 25, were taking turns knitting and selling their creations during the events at Augusta Common.
“I like it here,” Usry said of the annual event. “I wish there were more.”
Representatives from the Salvation Army were taking donations and Golden Harvest collected canned foods.
“There were lots of people interested in volunteering,” said Carrie Jones, Golden Harvest’s special events coordinator. “It was good day.”
Downtown businesses also saw a boom to their usually slower weekend business. Jennifer Tutt, the owner of Sit A Spell Coffee House on the corner of Broad Street and James Brown Boulevard, was all smiles.
“I can close up and not come back until next year after today,” she said. “It has been really, really awesome.”
After the parade, the Cutno School of Dance, the Curtis Baptist Church Choir and Brandon McGuiness performed.
Then Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver took the stage about 6:15 p.m.
“This is one of my favorite events of the year,” Copenhaver said.
The holiday tree on the common lit up with fireworks in the background.
“It was unbelievable,” said Shanti Gilling, of Augusta. “What a way to start the season.”