Downtown Mount Airy will take on a cheery holiday look with the official lighting of the city Christmas tree on the grounds of the Municipal Building this evening.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the downtown tree lighting ceremony, a long-time member of the city’s appearance commission, Eleanor Powell Hines, will have the honor of flipping the switch to illuminate the tree this year.
In addition to her work on the appearance commission, which oversees the lighting ceremony as well as recognizing local home and business owners for improvements to their property, Powell-Hines is well known locally for her work at The Mount Airy News. She served as features editor and Surry Scene editor for a number of years at the paper, in addition to handling other assignments at various times.
The person selected to light the tree is generally considered a bit of a local celebrity.
“The appearance commission always votes on who we think should do it,” said Michella Huff, the parks, cemetery and grounds maintenance supervisor for the Mount Airy Parks and Recreation department. “She was our pick this year. She knows so much about Mount Airy, she knows so much about the history of the city and knows so much about the houses and properties.”
Huff said oftentimes when the appearance commission is considering honoring property owners for work they’ve done on their land or buildings, Powell-Hines can spout a detailed history of the property in question, relying on her memory of growing up and living in Mount Airy.
While the lighting of the tree, scheduled to take place at 6 p.m., is the highlight of the evening, there will be a number of other activities.
Santa will take a seat near the Christmas tree and be available to meet with children, who’ll also receive treats tonight.
Musical performances will be done by Gentry Middle School Band and Chorus directed by Blake McCraw and the band Acoustic Harmonies will perform, with WPAQ DJ Mark Brown serving as the master or ceremonies.
Huff said the First Presbyterian Church Beacons will be serving hot chocolate throughout the evening.
“And as always Santa will make a quick appearance at the end of the evening to take the children’s wish lists and to give them a special treat,” she said, adding that Santa will remain at the tree until all the young folks who came to see him get a chance to chat with the jolly old elf and to receive their treat.
She also said the city would like to give thanks to the members of the appearance commission for their work. Those members include chairman Allen Burton, Joanne Cheatham, Eleanor Powell-Hines, Ann Yokeley, Brooke Lowry, Eric Hodges, Arvid Simmons, Glenda Laster, Joy Barlow, John Rees and Norma Hunter.
She said the ceremony should take about a half hour, though Santa and a few others may be on hand until nearly 7 p.m. With relatively mild temperatures and clear skies predicted, she’s hoping for a turn-out of around 300 or so people.