China Grove ushers in holiday season with Christmas tree lighting ceremony, caroling

Published 12:05 am Sunday, November 21, 2021

CHINA GROVE — With the expectant crowd counting down, light suddenly infused the large tree standing in Hanna Park.

The town of China Grove ushered in the holiday season Saturday night by lighting a roughly 20-foot-tall tree and singing carols led by the China Grove Middle School chorus. Free hot chocolate was dispensed to any and all who wanted some. And with temperatures dropping below 40 degrees, there was plenty of demand.

“I think everybody had a good time. It’s really the kick off to the holiday season,” said Mayor Charles Seaford.

Seaford welcomed the crowd to the event and was also responsible for pulling the lever to activate the tree’s lights. This year’s tree was larger before because the town added another tier. Hanna Park was also lit by glowing orbs placed in natural trees on its perimeter.

The first time the chorus performed at the ceremony, only nine students sang. This year, close to 50 seventh and eighth grade choral students crowded the park’s stage while belting out familiar lyrics.

“It’s definitely grown in popularity,” said Amber Edwards, China Grove Middle School choral director.

Saturday night was also the first time the China Grove Middle School chorus has performed since Christmas of 2019 due to the pandemic.

“This was a good way to kick it back off and for a lot of kids this was their first performance as a middle school choir member,” Edwards said.

Even though it was likely the first time on stage for many of the singers, they didn’t seem to be phased by the bright lights.

“We had a little soundcheck around 6 o’clock and I think that helps to get all the nerves out,” Edwards said. “By performance time, they started to loosen up, especially when we got into the crowd sing along, they really started to sing loud and you could tell the nerves fell away.”

The students practiced their setlist, which included “Feliz Navidad,” “Rudolph,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” for about three months prior to the performance.

“We started really early,” Edwards said.

In addition to vocals, many of the songs included dancing and festive props. The last song performed by the chorus was “Silent Night,” which was accentuated by a crowd holding lit candles.

The tree lighting ceremony is the first of several holiday events the town has planned. China Grove will host the Southern Rowan Christmas Parade on Tuesday afternoon. The route will start at 3 p.m. in Landis and restart at 4 p.m. in China Grove. There are about 100 entries scheduled to participate this year, including Santa Claus. China Grove is also planning to host Christmas in the Grove. Information on upcoming events can be found on the town’s Facebook page.