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Concord plans Christmas Corridor

By Joanie Morris
For the Salisbury Post
CONCORD — Santa Claus was in town Thursday, bringing the Christmas spirit a little early this year.
Officials from Great Wolf Lodge, the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Concord Mills, as well as Miller Davis Studio, were on hand at the Great Wolf Lodge indoor waterpark to announce expanded Christmas activities on Exit 49 in Concord.
In addition to the second year of the Carolina Christmas light show at Charlotte Motor Speedway, tourism officials and hotel managers at the hotels along Concord Mills and Bruton Smith boulevards will also be getting in on the action.
The new experience, called the Boulevard of Lights, is being called “a true Christmas corridor.” From the speedway to Concord Mills, visitors will be able to see close to 3 miles of lights at 12 hotels and more than 140 banners and decorations. The idea, according to Donna Carpenter, president and CEO of the Visitors Bureau, is to target tour groups and leisure travelers, as well as local residents, for an enhanced Christmas experience.
“Creating the Boulevard of Lights will enhance Cabarrus County’s reputation as a Christmas destination,” she said in a press release. “Anchored by holiday shopping at Concord Mills on one end and holiday entertainment with Carolina Christmas at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the other, we have a tremendous opportunity to build a Christmas corridor that will boost the area economy.”
Carpenter highlighted the economic impact of tourism on Cabarrus County over the last two decades — where tourism has more than quadrupled — and called the Boulevard of Lights an investment in tourism to keep visitors coming back to Cabarrus County.
“Holiday visitors to Cabarrus County are certainly in for a treat this year,” Carpenter said during the event Thursday.
In addition to the announcement about the Boulevard of Lights, Concord Mills General Manager Ray Soporowski announced that the mall, along with six other venues, would participate in a punch card allowing visitors to enter to win a $500 gift card to spend at the mall. Entrants simply have the card — embellished with a Christmas tree — punched when they visit the Cabarrus Convention and Visitors Bureau Visitor Information Center, Carolina Christmas, the Sam Bass Gallery, Reed Gold Mine, Punchy’s Diner, Cabarrus Creamery or Concord Mills. Four punches are required to enter the contest. The contest will run from Nov. 23-Dec. 16.
“We are very excited about the opportunity to be a part of the Boulevard of Lights,” Soporowski said, adding that the mall would again be opening at midnight on Black Friday for shoppers.
Charlotte Motor Speedway President Marcus Smith said the speedway was also excited to be a participant this year. He announced several additions and changes to the Carolina Christmas light show that speedway officials hope will make it even better.
“Last year … I was amazed at how many people said, ‘I love what you’re doing at the speedway,’ ” Smith said. “This (year) is going to be like Disneyland right here in our backyard.”
In addition to the 3 miles of lights along the boulevard at Exit 49, Smith said the speedway is also expanding Carolina Christmas. There will be more than 3 million LED lights in the 4.5-mile show, with 600 unique displays.
This year, the speedway has incorporated zMax Dragway and the dirt track into the light show. After entering, drivers will circle around into the track, driving most of the track this year — a change from only half of the track last year — and into the infield.
“I’m so excited not only to have Carolina Christmas, but expanding this down the road,” Smith said. “We’ve got one of the country’s best Christmas attractions.”
“We had so many people that enjoyed the on-track experience last year,” said Mike Miller, owner of Miller Davis Studios. There will be animated cars on the track in the front straightaway, a petting zoo, s’more pit, Bethlehem Village, the North Pole Express and the Coca-Cola Igloo where children can have their picture made with Santa.
Admission to Carolina Christmas is $20 per car, van or SUV, and includes admission for up to eight people. Group rates and tour buses are available. For more information, visit www.visitcarolinachristmas.com
There is also a dedicated website for all of the Christmas events along Exit 49. To learn about events, including the $500 gift card giveaway, visit www.carolinachristmasnc.com
Carolina Christmas opens at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Wednesday, Nov. 23, and runs nightly from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. through New Year’s Eve, excluding Christmas Day.
Joanie Morris is a freelance writer for the Salisbury Post. She can be reached at 704-797-4248 or news@salisburypost.com.

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