Covington officials say this year’s holiday season kickoff will be one that residents won’t want to miss.
Covington’s Magical Lights of Christmas, which will take place Nov. 21, has been retooled and renamed from previous Lighting of the Courthouse celebrations. This year, thanks to $40,000 in lights, the event is going to be a lighting of the entire square, with some surprises thrown in.
"The event is totally retooled and refocused and will be the first of its kind in Covington," Mayor Ronnie Johnston said. "The show will bring back the magic of Christmas."
Interim Main Street Covington Manager Serra Phillips said the event will include more than just turning on lights, emphasizing, "It’s going to be a show."
Magical Lights of Christmas is part of the mayor’s vision to turn Covington into a Christmas lights destination and to boost tourism.
"I believe it’s a gift to all the citizens of all of Newton County and the surrounding region. Clearly, we’re wanting to create a destination that all of our citizens here will enjoy and that every citizen throughout the state of Georgia could enjoy," Johnston said.
Johnston wants to see 500 to 1,000 cars coming through the town square nightly during the 33-day run of the holiday celebration, and he said officials are working with local businesses to help them turn that increased traffic into more revenue.
When he first spoke about adding lighting to the square, Johnston said he wanted the display to rival those at Lake Lanier and Callaway Gardens. Though it’s in its pilot year, Covington’s event got a boost from the state of Georgia tourism department, which showcased Covington alongside the state’s biggest events through advertising in November’s Atlanta Magazine.
Magical Lights of Christmas will kick off on the square at 6:15 p.m. with a performance by the Newton County Community Band. A brief, pared-back ceremony will start at 6:30 p.m. and will be emceed by Johnston, with performances by the Oxford Singing Children and Community Band and a special appearance by Santa Claus. The lighting of the square is expected to take place around 7 p.m.
The $40,000 cost of the lights is being split evenly by the city of Covington and Main Street. Local company Live Events Solutions won the bid for the event, which is contracted to take place the next three years. Crews have been installing lights around downtown.
Phillips thanked property and business owners around the square, who have bought into the vision and allowed thousands of lights to adorn their buildings. A total of 43 buildings and 54 trees are expected to be lit.
The Nov. 21 event also kicks off a series of special Thursdays running through December and including:
• Later shopping on the square (retail and food businesses will stay open until 8 p.m. Thursdays), and sidewalk vendors will offer Christmas wares.
• Santa will be available for photos at Ramsey’s Furniture annex; photos are sponsored by The Covington News this year.
• A "Find the Downtown Dog" contest for children; children will get a card at participating downtown businesses and will have to find the dog hidden in stores and then drop their cards in a special Main Street dropbox, which will enter the chldren in a raffle for prizes.
• Caroling performances by various local groups.
In addition, Phillips said Main Street is planning to put on a showing of "A Charlie Brown Christmas".
Horse-drawn carriage rides will only be available Nov. 21 this year, not on subsequent Thursdays.
New this year, Santa will also be on the square Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for photos up until Dec. 21. The Covington Lions Club’s annual Christmas parade is Dec. 7; Santa will be on the square after the parade wraps up.
Johnston thanked Phillips for all of her work coordinating the new event, even though she’s had to step in as interim director. He also thanked the entire Main Street board, City Manager Leigh Anne Knight and the Covington City Council for their efforts, as well as Newton County for partnering in the event.