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"Let's Ride Through Town" Downtown Forest City Lights Bring Folks From Near and Far

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After more than 91 years, people are still impressed and hearts are lifted by the sight of Forest City's Downtown Christmas Lights. The mayor will throw the switch on Thanksgiving night at 6 p.m. Caroling and hot chocolate will be there for all.

Christmas lights over Forest City kick off the season as much as anything.

"Let's ride through town and look at the lights," you can hear people say from one end of Forest City to the other.

And they say it of Forest City all over the Southeast.

When Mayor Steve Holland and his special guests throw the switch to light Main Street on Thanksgiving night, he will be renewing a tradition that goes back at least 91 years.

What? They had electricity back then?

According to a clipping from a 1928 newspaper, the lights ran from First Methodist Church to a car dealership in the west end. A city official named Frank Dorsey was at the helm of the crew that ran the lights.

Small pines were decorated along Main Street to complete the holiday cheer.

According to the Town of Forest City's Amy Bridges, the lighting ceremony is a yearly reunion.

People say, "I haven't seen you since last year," according to Bridges. "Kids who used to come to the lighting ceremony with their parents are now grown with kids of their own. It's quite a tradition."

The Gospel group, In His Glory, will sing carols and lead the crowd in singing together. After the ceremony, all are invited to the Santa House for complimentary hot chocolate.

The tree lighting ceremony also includes the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce's raffle drawing.

And the ceremony kicks off weeks of holiday action.

The town's inspiring and community building Christmas parade begins at 3 p.m. on Sunday, December 1. Floats, bands, fire engines and dance studios will dot the parade route to the jubilation of all who gather along Main Street. There will even be a guy who bears a resemblance to Santa there. Of course, the real Santa will be busy elsewhere.

The popular carriage rides are featured Saturdays, December 7, 14 and 21 from 6 until 8:30 p.m. Bridges said people searching for carriage rides often hit Forest City during this season and it has floated the town to the top of many Internet searches in the region.

Hay rides are also on tap. They will course the main drag on Fridays, December 6, 13, and 20.

Those same Fridays and Saturdays, the town will offer ice skating. The rink opens at six on Fridays and five on Saturdays.

Those same three Friday nights, the town will be showing movies in the POPS amphitheater. Bridges hopes for good weather, but encourages folks to dress warmly.

It's hard to think of downtown Forest City and the Christmas lights without thinking of Howard Harrill. The World War II vet who came home to begin decorating the town once served as the grand marshall of the Christmas parade.

Eventually his Howard Harrill Decorating Company would provide mall and Main Street decorations for more than 35 cities across the country, including one in Hawaii.

Although the town began stringing lights as early as 1928, the splendid extravagance of the Forest City lights today is due in large part to the vision and generosity of Howard Harrill.

Bridges said many local merchants get a shopping bump both during the season and when folks who have visited come back for a second look after the festivities.

For more detailed information about the schedule of events, including Santa Paws and the Polar Express train ride, please visit www.townofforestcity.com or search Forest City Events on facebook.

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