With Christmas in the air, McDuffie County residents will begin celebrating with a four-day schedule of holiday happenings.
The ninth annual Festival Off Main begins Thursday, Dec. 1, and continues through Sunday, Dec. 4. Admission is free for most events.
Since its inception in 2003, the festival has drawn thousands of people to downtown Thomson each year to begin the holiday season.
For information, a schedule of events, entry forms and tickets, visit festivaloffmain.org or call the chamber of commerce at (706) 597-1000.
Thursday, Dec. 1
THOMSON TREE LIGHTING
Christmas festivities will kick off with the annual Christmas tree lighting at The Depot at 6 p.m.
Santa and Mrs. Claus will arrive in Thomson to light the tree. Children will have the chance to visit Santa and have their pictures taken with him.
Elementary school pupils will sing Christmas carols, and the Thomson Fire Department will sell hot dogs, chili and hot cocoa.
Friday, Dec. 2
MOVIE NIGHT AT
The Depot will host a different Christmas character - the Grinch.
The movie night will begin at 6 p.m., and it is for children ages 5 to 12. It includes a showing of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and games, crafts and snacks.
Tickets cost $8 and are available at the Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce.
For more information, call Corey Johnson at (706)
DEARING TREE LIGHTING
At 6 p.m., Santa is set to visit the town of Dearing to light the Christmas tree in front of the Dearing Gym. It is free to attend, and hot chocolate and cookies will be provided.
The event will last about 45 minutes, with the lighting of the tree between 6:15 and 6:30, said Dearing Mayor Sean Kelley.
Pupils from Dearing Elementary school will sing before the tree is lit, and the Dearing School chorus will sing afterward.
"We usually have a good turnout, and it's a good family time," Kelley said.
Saturday, Dec. 3
Festivities continue bright and early Saturday with the Depot Dash 5K run and walk at 8 a.m.
Participants must pay a $20 race entry fee and will receive a T-shirt when they register. Each year about 100 people compete in the Depot Dash.
"People have enjoyed the race, and it's a good course," said Brad Adams, a member of the festival committee and race organizer.
The starting line is right outside The Depot, and the course goes through Westview and Hickory Hill, around the old courthouse, and the finish line is back at The Depot.
The first age group is 10-14, and it is divided into five-year increments after that. The first male and female finisher in each age category will receive a medal.
The overall male and female winners will receive a trophy and a goodie bag with items donated by local vendors.
"We try to have opportunities for all age groups to win a ribbon for their category," Adams said. "We encourage anyone to come out."
For more information and entry forms, call Adams at (706) 597-7368. Forms are also available at festivaloffmain.org.
FESTIVAL OFF MAIN
The festival continues all day with arts, crafts and entertainment from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Sassy Brass Band and the Whiskey Road Gang will perform throughout the day.
From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., there will be free games and crafts specifically for children. There will also be inflatables for the children.
Space is still available for artists, crafters and food vendors to reserve a spot at the festival. All vendors are responsible for providing their own tables, chairs and tents.
A vendor or crafter booth costs $25, and a booth for a food vendor is $65.
For more information, contact Johnette Bell at (706) 595-6330.
TOUR OF HOMES
At 5 p.m., refreshments will be served at the Chamber of Commerce before the Tour of Homes. Buses will leave for the tour at 5:30.
Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 the day of the event.
For more information, contact Diane Wood at Peacock Hill at (706) 595-6999.
Sunday, Dec. 4
FESTIVAL OF TREES PARADE
The final event of the celebration is the Festival of Trees parade, which will begin at 3 p.m. Sunday.
Between 5,000 and 10,000 people attend the parade each year.
It begins at the old Norris Elementary School and marches through downtown Thomson. As part of this year's Festival of Trees theme, Christmas trees will be decorated and placed under the light poles downtown, said Mike Carrington, who is on the festival committee.
Participants include a Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps detail, the middle school and high school bands, local military groups, several car clubs and usually some horse clubs.
Children should bring a bag because most of the floats have people throwing candy to the crowd, Carrington said.
All floats must be in place by 2 p.m. for judging, which is divided into four prize categories - small business, educational, industry and religious.
To participate in the parade, it costs $10 for an individual car, truck or motorcycle, $25 for a float and $50 for a car or motorcycle club if forms are submitted by Nov. 30. Every participant must sign a waiver in order to participate.
For more information, call the chamber of commerce at (706) 597-1000.