Several hundred people, including a number of toddlers eager to welcome Santa and Mrs. Claus, gathered at the Augusta Common for Augusta's annual Christmas tree lighting event Tuesday night.
The event kicked off the 2005 holiday celebration and is sponsored by the city.
For the Dobbins family of Evans, the celebration was significant.
"Usually I have to work, but this year I was off," said Mark Dobbins, a three-year Richmond County sheriff's deputy.
"It's a great family activity," said his wife, Rosetta Dobbins, while tending to daughters Leara, 4, and Karena, 9 months.
At 6 p.m. sharp, interim Mayor Willie Mays pulled a symbolic candy cane switch as multicolored bulbs lit a 32-foot tree. The tree was purchased from a tree farm in Boone, N.C., said Yolanda Marshall, the Richmond County Parks & Recreation Department's special events manager.
Mr. Mays said the breezy temperatures in the mid-40s were appropriate.
"It's a bit cool, but we still feel good," he said. He then allowed a few children to assist him with the lighting detail. "We're thankful for our many blessings," he told the crowd.
Along with the tree, lights along Broad Street lit simultaneously.
County administrator Fred Russell said the event had been held at the municipal building before being moved to Riverwalk Augusta about 1990.
"It's a long-standing tradition," said Tom Beck, the county's recreation and parks director, who estimated 400 people attended this year.
Reach Timothy Cox at (706) 823-3217 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Tree:
35 feet Tall
Blue Spruce, from Boone, N.C.