Time again for 'A Night Before Christmas'

By Stina Sieg | Dec 07, 2011

For one holiday evening every year, Waynesville makes the season bright, literally.

A Night Before Christmas, coming to town this Saturday, is a time for live music, caroling, hayrides, poetry and visits from Santa. Like always, glowing luminaries will dot blocked-off Main Street, which should be dense with families and shoppers peeking into the stores, galleries and restaurants open late.

It’s not exactly Dickens, but it’s a time to come together, one that Bob Lang and other shop keepers have come to cherish. Not only is the night great for business, the owner of Home Tech explained, but it’s also full of real joy.

“It’s wonderful,” he said.

Like many businesses, his offers holiday treats for his customers and passersby. Though he ends up having to refresh his cookies and cider constantly, he doesn’t seem to mind. Nights like these are part of the reason he chose to live here.

A 16-year resident, he decided on Waynesville partly because of its quaint vibe and feeling of togetherness. It reminds him of his hometown, Port Washington, a hamlet located on Long Island. Especially during its best festivals and events, being in Waynesville is like coming home.

“I love this town,” Lang said.

Up the street a ways, Blue Ridge Books owner Allison Best-Teague also spoke warmly of the night, with which she was once deeply involved. She used to place the luminaries up and down Main Street, back in the days when the bags were actually lit up with burning candles and the event was put on by the Kids Advocacy Resource Effort. Nowadays, the night is sponsored by the Downtown Waynesville Association and the little flames have been replaced by mini light bulbs, but the heart of the night remains the same.

“It’s always fun,” Best-Teague said, adding that the hayrides are her favorite part.

While she usually does brisk business that evening, she likes the fact that the event doesn’t have to be about spending money. As a mother, she appreciates that families can come downtown and soak in the Christmas warmth without having to pay a penny. For her, the night is much more about the spirit of Christmas than spending.

“It definitely has the small-town atmosphere that we enjoy,” she said.

While there are many people who have worked for years to keep this magic going, caroler Sam Smith is one of the few who can say he’s been on the job since the event began. Starting with the night’s first year, a date of which neither the DWA nor Smith is sure, he and other singers from the Hazelwood Baptist Church choir have belted out Christmas carols along Main Street. The choir director explained that especially when the weather’s good, the experience is “very, very nice.”

“Everybody just seems to be in a very bright, cheerful mood and enjoying the season and browsing though the shops and getting a chance to observe what’s all going on there on Main Street,” he said.

For his choir’s part, what’s going on is a mix of religious and secular Christmas songs, which always attracts groups of onlookers. He’s happy for the attention, and not just because it takes so much dedication from him and the other singers to brave the cold. More than anything, he said, he’s glad to get out the “real” message of the holidays, as he and his fellow parishioners see it.

“We like to share with folks the sacred aspect of Christmas,” he said, adding that he feels welcome year after year.

A Night Before Christmas, which stars in the early evening and continues until 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, will also feature First Baptist Church of Waynesville’s “Bethlehem marketplace,” as well as performances from MusicWorks!, Junaluska Music Studio, Haywood Women’s Chorus and Haywood Community Band Ensemble (performing at the Haywood Tourism Welcome Center). Additional musicians will include Ginny McAfee with McKayla Reece, Steve Summey, Karen Conner and Michael Pilgrim. Caleb & Mollie will play at Fifi’s, and Pheasant Hill will present Jeanne Naber. The Classic Wineseller will feature Jaime Lauren Webb, and Twigs and Leaves Gallery will have Christmas music performed on the piano. The Poetry People, also known as Michael and Scott, will return by popular demand. For more information, call 456-3517 or visit downtownwaynesville.com.