Last updated: November 08. 2013 5:23PM - 1331 Views
Emily M. Hobbs Staff Writer

David Johnson/File photoLast year the circle in downtown Newton Grove was awash in color. This year's illumination ceremony will take place next month in preparation for the holiday season.
David Johnson/File photoLast year the circle in downtown Newton Grove was awash in color. This year's illumination ceremony will take place next month in preparation for the holiday season.
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Newton Grove is gearing up for the holiday season, and town and community leaders are preparing to brighten the downtown circle with its now annual “Circle of Lights.”

On Monday, Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. the lights will be illuminated, a tradition that began in 1998. The annual “Circle of Lights” is sponsored by the Newton Grove Area 100 Committee in conjunction with the town of Newton Grove.

“It seemed like we needed something to draw people together,” said Gail Darden, who along with Sue Vernon, lead the lighting efforts. The program started with the help of Vernon and Darden. This year Darden said they are going to have a few new memorials to add to the 76 memorials that are already in place from last year. These memorials are in love, in memory and in honor of someone. The town has 13 trees that are planted around the circle and the signs are between the trees. The signs each have seven or eight names and some signs have two sets of parents.

“We started out with maybe 25,” said Darden. The program has grown from that original 25 to include even more participants, with the number this year climbing closer to 100. To light the trees the town does a tree illumination ceremony where the names of those that are being shown love and honor are read aloud. Darden says that the mayor does the count down to the lighting of the trees.

“We have always had pretty good weather,” Darden said in phone interview on Tuesday. She says the ceremony lasts 45 minutes to an hour and is a staple in the community’s holiday festivities. She said many families come out for this simple ceremony and have been doing it for years now, something looked forward to by most in the community and beyond.

Darden said that Brent Hood usually comes out and uses his sound system to play music and Christmas hymns for the crowd. Tradition is that the group sings Silent Night at the end. A local minister also comes and offers up the invocation. Transformer Maintenance & Service, Inc. (TMS) helps with the signs and angels on the circle using their boom truck which, Darden said, is a great help on getting everything ready.

“This starts the Christmas season off for us around here,” said Darden. They are still accepting new participants and the first year’s fee is $100 and the following year is $25 if no changes are made. Sign changes can be made for an additional $25. Payments should be made to Newton Grove Circle of Lights C/O First Citizens Bank, PO BOX 116, Newton Grove, N.C. 28366. Deadline for just the new participants is Nov. 25. For more information contact Gail Darden or Sue Vernon at 910-594-0994.

Closely following the tree lighting ceremony is the town’s annual Christmas parade. Preparation are also under way for that event. The parade, which is always the weekend after the “Circle of Lights,” will be held on Saturday, Dec. 7, at 10 a.m. Vehicles will line up at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church at 211 Irwin Drive and will proceed from there to U.S. 701 to the area around Eddie’s BBQ and go around the circle down by the ABC store, said Amanda Turner, Newton Grove’s town clerk. She said that usually a local church will come out and use the parade as a fund raising opportunity by selling hot dogs, hot chocolate, and other food to the crowd after the parade.

“This is a big thing here. We have done this for years and years and never stopped,” said Turner.

Applications can are available to the Town Hall or by email to townclerk@newtongrove.net and should be returned no later than Monday, Dec. 2. For more information on the parade contact David Parker at 910-594-0932 or the Newton Grove Town Hall at 910-594-0827.

Emily M. Hobbs can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 122 or via email at ebrown@civitasmedia.com

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