By Tina Wolfe, Guest Blogger.
Songs have been written about it. Movies tell of its heart-felt appeal and soldiers long for it. Let’s face it, who among us has not felt the pull of a storybook small town Christmas? In our hectic, technology-driven lives, coming home for the holidays has always represented a universal desire for connectedness to a less complicated, more authentic version of ourselves.
What better place to create new traditions and lasting memories than the county known for its “Small Town Friendly” residents? So whether you’re from Rutherford County or you just want to be, we invite you to experience the transforming magic of our Hometown Holidays.
Stretching from the mountains in Chimney Rock Village to the foothills of Forest City where more than a million lights twinkle in the night sky, plus sparkling towns in between, our neighborly Main Streets roll out the festive red carpet with activities that take us back to simpler times. Families and couples will enjoy a seasonal celebration that awakens the wonder and innocence in each of us through storybook scenes, strolling carolers, horse drawn carriage rides, Santa’s villages, holiday parades, and even a repelling Santa off of the biggest natural chimney in the country.
“I remember the first time I saw Main Street at Christmas,” says Harriet Horn, owner of Horn’s Home & Garden in Forest City. “I turned the corner and it just took my breath away. I will always remember that sight.” Harriet describes the feeling that she and others who regularly come during the holidays experience, “The lights, the music, the church programs, just everything really gives you that warm fuzzy feeling and fills your heart with the Christmas spirit.”
Events such as these are what make Hometown Holidays so memorable. Who wouldn’t agree that spending a day ice skating, visiting Santa’s Village or taking a romantic carriage ride at Forest City’s holiday events beats fighting for a parking spot at the mall? When is the last time you gathered round a giant Christmas tree all bundled up, holding hands, singing carols as the lights flickered and glowed in the community square? (Tree Lighting Ceremony)
“The Forest City celebration is truly something to behold,” says Shelly Gref, co-owner with her husband Paul of the newly opened Copper Penny Grill on Main Street who moved here from Orlando to raise their kids in a small town. “I have teenagers and this gets them away from their cell phones and into the community, back to the basics,” she says. “It is really a family event.”
Our shop owners and residents are passionate about the holidays and sharing it with others. Phyllis Bailey, owner of Impressions Salon in Spindale is participating in its Paint the Town event where local students will showcase their artistic skills by recreating classic Christmas story scenes on storefront windows. “It’s about giving people the Christmas spirit and doing something for the people of the town. Everyone gets involved and the children get the recognition of seeing their work enjoyed by so many,” she says. Phyllis loves the way the whole community comes together during these celebrations to help one another and provide a true old-timey Christmas for everyone.
Tracy White, of Fat Tracy’s restaurant on Main Street in Spindale is also getting in on the fun. A native to Rutherford County, Tracy is up for anything that draws the holiday revelers out to downtown where they can discover the wonderful shops and get a taste of “small town friendly.” “We have such unique shops you won’t find anywhere else,” he says. “We want to give folks something to remember.”
Exemplifying small town hospitality is Spindale Drug, a pharmacy, gift shop and coffee shop rolled into one. This Main Street mainstay has been the local gathering place since it opened in 1925. Manager Paige Papesh is excited about the upcoming festivities including the annual Spindale-Rutherfordton Christmas Parade (December 5 at 3:30 p.m. in Spindale and 5 p.m. in Rutherfordton) and the Elves & Bells 5K fundraising race November 28, which they sponsor each year. “This race is so much fun and race proceeds provide presents for local children that would otherwise go without,” Paige says. Imagine the sound of hundreds of jingle bells on all those shoes can make a child’s Christmas dream come true – and that you can be a part of it.
The parade participants go all out as well, with decked out Christmas floats, fire trucks, dance teams and marching bands, all ending with a visit from Saint Nick! Forest City’s Christmas Parade is not only a crowd pleaser but one of the largest parades in the county! It is set for November 29 at 3 p.m. and travels right down Main Street.
If you’d like to explore the yuletide magic just outside of our quaint downtowns, visit the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge, which turns into a Christmas fairy tale. The Bridge was created and is cared for year round by the volunteers of this idyllic lake town. Then, imagine the delight of your child as they watch Santa adorned in his bright red suit repelling down the world’s largest natural chimney – Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park. “Guests come from all over to see Santa practice for his big night,” says Mary J. Gale, General Manager of the Chimney Rock section of the greater Chimney Rock State Park. “They can’t believe what rigor he has to go through to make sure that every good little boy and girl gets presents on Christmas morning!” This quaint mountain town cradled by towering rock faces joyfully celebrates the holidays with a tree-lighting ceremony, caroling throughout the Village, and Santa even hands out stockings for the children to take around to the shops for special treats!
How about taking a stroll down Rutherfordton’s Main Street to view their live – yes as in real people – Christmas window scenes and enjoy cookies from Mrs. Claus while you shop? I’m guessing that our main streets, aglow in holiday cheer and genuine good will, are a far better experience than Black Friday mayhem or isolated internet shopping. These events are about celebrating with family and friends, and even making new friends.
So this year, consider coming home for the holidays, to Rutherford County’s Hometown Holidays and start creating traditions that will last a lifetime. You can find details about all of the Hometown Holiday events including times, locations, and maps HERE.