While Thanksgiving dinner and Black Friday shopping may have come and gone, Christmas festivities in Bryan County, including parades, a chili cook-off, tree lightings and more, are just around the corner to keep everyone in the holiday spirit.
In Richmond Hill, folks can enjoy Christmas festivities starting Friday shortly after 6 p.m., when Mayor Harold Fowler will flip the switch to turn on more than 10,000 twinkling lights as part of the city’s first-ever Festival of Lights. The lights will be on display each evening during month of December and will also guide the way for chili-hungry attendees of the 10th annual Chili Cook-Off.
“It’s something we’ve all kind of wanted to do for a few years, and this year we buckled down and did it (the Festival of Lights),” Chili Cook-Off committee member Amanda Styer said. “A lot of cities do it and we thought it would be fun for us to do. We want it to continue to grow bigger and bigger each year.”
Joining more than 10 chili vendors who’ll be offering samples of warm home-cooked chili beginning at 6:30 p.m. will be various arts and craft vendors, informational booths and other food vendors, Styer said.
Lots of activities will be available for families and children during the event Friday. “Shrek the Halls,” a 30-minute Christmas movie, will be shown three times throughout the evening at the amphitheater, while face painting, entertainment, a bounce house and more can be found in and around the pavilion, Styer said.
Santa and Mrs. Claus will arrive by sleigh and be available for photos, and families are encouraged to bring their own cameras for photos this year. New to the event this year will be free hay rides and rides on Santa’s sleigh.
Events will continue at 10 a.m. Saturday in Richmond Hill with the 16th annual Christmas parade. More than 60 participants, including high school marching bands, parade floats and troops and bands from Fort Stewart, will help make up the parade that begins at the elementary school complex and ends at J.F. Gregory Park.
Grand Marshal Bobby Carpenter will lead this year’s parade, dubbed “A Sweet Candy Christmas.” Carpenter said he looks forward to “feeling good” on Saturday.
“It’s an honor when you’re 80 years old – your time is running out anyway,” Carpenter said. “It’s an honor to be voted on for something like that.”
Carpenter has lived in Richmond Hill all his life and served as postmaster for the city for 26 years. Zoning Administrator and parade committee member Nancy Frye said Carpenter was voted on out of four candidates by the Christmas parade committee.
“He’s just one of those guys that will do whatever is needed and he adores his community here,” she said.
And later that day just south of Richmond Hill will be the 21st annual lighted boat parade at the Fort McAllister pier.
The event, sponsored by Offshore Outlaws Fishing Club, will begin with a captain’s meeting at 5 p.m. and the boat parade, featuring around 15 boats decorated with Christmas lights, around 7:30 p.m. A fireworks display will follow the boat parade.