Originally created 11/29/97

Christmas tree goes up in blaze of lights



AIKEN -- With a flip of the switch, Christmas arrived Friday in Aiken.

White lights blazed in the blink of an eye under the night sky up and down Laurens Street. The lights bloomed, too, on the city's official Christmas tree in the median at Laurens and Barnwell Avenue.

"What do you know? It worked," exclaimed Mayor Fred Cavanaugh, master of ceremonies for Friday's Carolighting and Tree Ceremony.

The lights were what Chris Herron, 10, came for. "I just like Christmas," he said.

His stepsister, Nicole Garrett, 4, had something else in mind.

"I like the Jingle Bell Rock," she said. The strains of the Brenda Lee classic weren't heard Friday, but there were plenty of song sheets handed out with the more traditional version of Jingle Bells included.

And there were plenty of opportunities for group sing-a-longs as about 400 people paraded out of the Alley with lighted candles about 5:30 p.m. Their destination was the city's Christmas tree.

Once there, they sang more Christmas songs: Deck the Halls, The First Noel and O, Christmas Tree.

Mr. Cavanaugh and Mrs. South Carolina, Stephanie Friedman, welcomed the carolers. Before switching on the lights, the mayor asked children to tell what they were thankful for at Christmas.

Notable on the list: moms and dads, friends, Jesus' birthday, a mind to learn with, a stuffed cobra and their cats.

Aiken's holiday festivities continue today with A Holly Day at 10:30 a.m. There will be an equestrian procession on Laurens Street at 1 p.m.