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Posted: December 4, 2012 9:00 p.m.

Twilights event shines brightly

Chimney Park draws a crowd for its annual Christmas celebration

Gabriel Khouli/

Chimney Park was packed Sunday evening as more than 1,200 people attended the park's annual Christmas celebration.

Drawn by holiday storytelling, caroling and plenty of Christmas decorations, the fifth annual Twilights at Chimney Park saw its largest ever crowd and might make a profit for the first time.

Decorations usually cost around $2,500 or more, but turnout and donations were larger than ever, so the nonprofit Friends of Newton Parks, which sponsors the event, believes it will make a profit, said Chairwoman Jean Austin. Admission was $5 per person this year, and 1,166 people purchased tickets in addition to several dozen volunteers and performers.

"Chimney Park is a special place, but on Sunday night the park was just magical, full of holiday lights, music and people," Austin said. "Thank you Covington for helping to make this special event happen."

Dozens of organizations participated in the event, which featured actors from Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" interacting with the crowds, some scenes from that play by the newly formed Dramatic Arts Production theatre, Santa Claus, festively dressed Oxford Youth Singers, music by Mac McKibben, local school choirs and a competitive tree decorating contest.

The tree decorating contest was won by the Eastside drama department, which received $100 for their efforts courtesy of Bullritos. The Montessori School of Covington, which actually entered two trees, took second place among the 10 entries.

Other event mainstays included the gnome home, a shining fairy tunnel, sparkling bottle trees, a candy cane lane, and a lighted bicycle display, which is part of the unique charm of Chimney Park.

Local nonprofits and businesses provided hot dogs, popcorn, hot chocolate and s'mores. Austin said many groups did more this year than ever, including the Covington Rotary Club, which provided hot dogs for free to the effort, and many volunteers who provided the Christmas lights strewn throughout the park's trees.

Though Austin joined the Friends of Newton Parks after the first Twilights event was held, she said she's been told was originally started as a way to bring people out to the park and raise awareness of the beauty it had to offer.

Austin has headed up the event's organization the past few years, but this year Oxford councilman Jim Windham, Jennifer Long and Angie Bezbourn, co-owner of Bullritos, headed up the efforts.

"The urban woodland called Chimney Park stands gracefully behind Newton County's popular public library. In the silence and shade stand the ruins of a once fine home, around which one can imagine gardens evoking the famous children's book, The Secret Garden," reads a brochure about Chimney Park.

"A new story is unfolding at this 12-acre site, this secret garden. Plans began with a dream to build an outdoor sanctuary especially attractive to children and families with special needs. That dream has grown into plans for a park where people of all ages and abilities may reconnect with nature under the sheltering limbs of towering trees."

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