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Thousands help Covington usher in holiday season at Lighting of the Square
Brandon Rose of the Arts Association in Newton County leads the festivities before the Oxford Singing Children perform Thursday night on the Covington Square during the annual Lighting of the Square. - photo by Tom Spigolon

COVINGTON, Ga. — Santa asked if Covington residents believed in him. Young singers did their best to conjure the Christmas spirit.

An estimated 5,000 heard live choral music and saw the official lighting of Covington's Christmas tree during the annual Lighting of the Square festivities Thursday night on the Covington Square.

Brandon Rose of the Arts Association in Newton County led the festivities which included performances by the Oxford Singing Children and Oxford Youth Singers choral groups on a stage in front of the Historic Courthouse on a crowded Covington Square.

Chairman Marcello Banes of the Newton County Board of Commissioners joined Covington Mayor Steve Horton and Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams in welcoming the crowd before Santa emerged from the Historic Courthouse.

"Do you believe?'" Santa asked the crowd. 

He and Horton flipped the switch to light the city's official Christmas tree on the southeast corner of the park in the middle of the Covington Square.  

An energetic Williams, who is retiring Dec. 31 after 16 years on the city council, told the crowd she was glad the event allowed residents to come together again after a year and a half of few, large public gatherings because of the pandemic. 

She also led a chant that encouraged residents to move past COVID — prompting a response from Horton.

"That sounded more like a campaign speech than a retirement speech," Horton said.

The event ended with Santa appearing briefly at the Christmas tree, and some attendees enjoying free s'mores after roasting marshmallows over a flame inside a barbecue drum sponsored by Newton Electric Supply.

The county government also invited the crowd to enjoy cider and cookies and see the holiday decorations inside the Historic Courthouse.

Attendees were able to walk freely around the Square after Covington leaders closed the parts of Monticello, Floyd, Pace and Washington streets to motorized vehicles.