Originally created 12/20/96

Season of sparkle

You left Interstate 20 at the Crawfordville exit about five minutes ago and have been driving past nothing but acres of pine trees and barren fields down a dark road.

You have the impression you missed a sign somewhere. This can't be where the big attraction is.

Things don't seem right.

Then you notice a glow off to the left. Amid that glow is one recognizable form. A big guy in a red suit.

You've made it. Welcome to Christmas in Dixie.

Christmas in Dixie is one of the holiday events that shine on in these days right before the holiday. Most of the big holiday performances have already taken their turn on stage early in the holiday season, looking to avoid conflicts with last-minute shopping, church activities or family time.

But if you haven't had your fill of holiday activities and you think you've already made enough of a monetary sacrifice to the great gift beast, some places have left the lights on for you.

The days right around the holiday are the busiest for the Christmas in Dixie light display outside Crawfordville, which continues daily until New Year's Eve.

People feel the need to show out-of-town guests the immensity of the 230,000 lights strung up on 400 trees on the Bennett family property.

Christmas in Dixie has strong religious themes, telling the story of Christmas in a series of life-size, country craft displays showing baby Jesus in the manger, wise men on camels, Herod and so on. Christmas carols in a country style are piped through the property.

And there are the fires burning outside the big food and craft center on the property. You can roast hot dogs or marshmallows over the fire and go inside for a cup of hot chocolate.

Rumors of Christmas in Dixie's demise seem to almost be a standing element of the event. People are always telling Lida Bennett, a proprietor, that they heard the light display has shut down, she said. One year people told her they had heard there was a sign on I-20 announcing that Christmas in Dixie was closed.

``That rumor gets out every year,'' she said. ``I don't know how.''

Christmas in Dixie may be the most popular light display around, but it's not the only one. Easter Seals has its Fantasy of Lights fund-raiser still going at Pendleton King Park. The Burnt Mill Plantation in Aiken will keep its 300,000-light display burning through Monday, and on Saturday Fort Gordon will get into the act as well.

The Fort Gordon Yacht Club will hold a new event, ``Annual Christmas Lights on the Lake Boat Parade.'' The parade will begin at 5:30 p.m. and go from the Fort Gordon Marina around the water's edge of the Fort Gordon Recreation Area to the Little River bridge on Georgia Highway 47 in Leah in Columbia County. It will end at the Cherokee boat ramp. There is no cost for admission or participation.

For illumination with a neighborhood feel, Goshen subdivision will have its annual lighting from 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday. The neighborhood will light itself up, and Santa will be receiving visitors. The subdivision is off Georgia Highway 56, south of Augusta.

It's a lot really. But Christmas comes only once a year.


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