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Festival off Main, parade, tree lighting fill weekend

The Magic of Christmas came alive in Thomson last weekend for the annual Festival Off Main, and the weekend was a success.

"For the whole event, I think it was a real success," said Camille Ruddick, the co-chair of the festival committee. "As with any event, you are going to have glitches, but we worked through every problem."

The fun began Friday night when Santa arrived for the tree lighting ceremony, which included choirs from each elementary school, a dollar store for children to do their Christmas shopping and plenty of fun activities while waiting to sit on Santa's lap.

Nine-year-old Davey Lloyd said he was happy with Santa's shop because he found a present for his dad that's "perfect for him." Dearing resident Judy Reeves said she was amused when her two grandsons - Bruce, 8, and Jacob, 7, visited with Santa.

"Santa told them he found it hard to believe they have actually been as good as they said they've been," Mrs. Reeves said.

After their turn with Santa, each child decorated gingerbread men, personalized ornaments, made reindeer food and talked with Mrs. Claus.

"Everything has been so exciting," Mrs. Claus said. "So many children have come out... they keep asking where the reindeer are. I explained that Georgia weather is not good for reindeer over a long period of time."

Saturday morning began with the annual Depot Dash, a 5k race through the streets of Thomson.

"It's a great course. It was a little cooler this year, and I enjoy this course every time I run it," said Mara Nance, the female winner.

Tickets for the Breakfast with Santa Saturday morning were sold out a few days before the event. Chamber of Commerce Director Carolyn Gilbert said she regretted turning people away, but a limit had to be set due to space.

The craft festival featured many vendors who were happy with the crowd attending the show. Shoppers browsed everything from goat milk body lotion to large snakes.

"It was worth it; it paid the rent," said Todd Breckenridge, owner of Safari Attractions.

"Do I have any eyeballs left in my head?" Thomson Artist Roel Wielinga asked at the end of the day, as he packed up his Studio De Phantasm booth from which he drew on-the-spot portraits and sold fantasy art. Mr. Wielinga said he drew 24 children's portraits during the festival.

After the arts and crafts portion of the festival, McDuffie's first night parade began.

"It's pretty because you get to see the lights," said LaQues Sims of Thomson. "I hope they do it every year."

There were 81 entries in the parade, many of them decked out with Christmas lights. Winning entries were: best float - McDuffie Regional Medical Center, best car - CSRA Road Angels of Augusta and best truck - Kathy Hawkins.

The parade began on Main Street in front of the middle school, and ended on Fluker Street at Thomson Elementary School. Along some stretches of the route, there were some complaints of poor visibility.

"I didn't like it because I couldn't see their faces or read their signs or see their decorations. And I don't like caskets," said Celeste Malden, who said she watched the parade from Jackson Street in front of Austin Oaks Apartments. "It's a shame, because I'm sure some of the entries would've been beautiful if I could see them."

Her neighbor, Robert Dollar, agreed, but was able to find a happy ending.

"It was unusual to my past experiences with parades, and it would've been better if it was daylight so I could see the floats," he said. "But I do think it was a good idea to have the horses last."

Mrs. Ruddick said the night parade was "received both ways," and the committee is meeting this week to discuss next year's plans.

"We wanted to try it, and those that liked it, loved it. It depends on where they were standing, and... We can't afford to put more street lights in," she said. "But it was a tremendous success. People in the community have responded in lots of ways, from our sponsors who were generous with their money and time, to the participants in the festival, and those that came just to be a part of it, and certainly our volunteers. We couldn't have put this on without all our volunteers. So it was just a good event. The magic was there."

Web posted on Thursday, December 07, 2006

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