Ignition tradition lights up Hilton Head's Christmas tree

astice@islandpacket.comNovember 26, 2011 

With friends and family visiting relatives on Hilton Head Island for the holidays, the weekend after Thanksgiving is the perfect day to kick off the Christmas season, said Alana Adams, education director for the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina.

The island tradition continued Saturday afternoon at the arts center's annual Community Christmas Tree Lighting festival at Shelter Cove.

Adams brought her 5-month-old son, Jasper, to meet Santa for the first time.

"Mrs. Claus helped us," Adams said. "Jasper is not a big fan of beards."

Four-year-old Isabella Smigiel, visiting grandma Jackie Brown from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., waited in line to get her picture taken on Santa's knee.

She knew just what to ask for.

"A Tinkerbell Barbie!" she said.

The Christmas celebration is one of three festivals put on annually by the arts center. The others are A Taste of Gullah and the Youth ArtsFest.

The tree-lighting featured holiday crafts, carols, cookies and live entertainment. This year, acts including Hilton Head Elementary School's Singing Sea Otters and the cast of "The Drowsy Chaperone," which opens Dec. 7 at the arts center, took the stage.

The featured event came at dusk, when the 30-foot-tall tree was illuminated.

As the sun began to set, Hilton Head Mayor Drew Laughlin, sporting an elf's cap, told the crowd to reflect on the season and think of ways to do good for one another.

His wife, Jane Laughlin, had the honors of flipping the giant switch, shaped like a present wrapped in a bow.

"I just have one thing to say: Merry Christmas, y'all," she said.

She pulled the lever, and in a flash of sparks and silver confetti, the official tree of Hilton Head Island was lighted.

Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/BlufftonBlogIP.

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