Northern Beaufort County gears up for Christmas-themed celebrations this week

emoody@beaufortgazette.comDecember 2, 2013 

Wednesday kicks off a series of holiday events in Port Royal and Beaufort.

For 42 years, the children of Port Royal have whispered their wishes in Santa's ear.

None of them -- not even his own children -- realized that it was Dan Lemieux under the thick white beard and red suit. He's never accepted a penny for his performances and has learned how to cajole even the most reluctant children into sitting for a photo.

"You can transform a child to all of a sudden like Santa," Lemieux said. "They don't have to come all the way to you, but you just have to reach out and let them touch just a finger and then, a lot of the time, they'll come closer."

Through the years, playing Santa occasionally presented challenges. The first time a child asked for an Xbox, Lemieux didn't know what to say. It didn't sound quite like a toy. But he had his answer down pat.

"Well, you be good now and go to bed early and leave me a cookie," he told the child.

Lemieux will take up his role again Wednesday at one of the first official community holiday events of the season in Port Royal. A tree lighting at 6 p.m. by Port Royal Elementary School will be followed by visits with Santa and a celebration in Live Oaks Park. Santa intends to ride in on a replica of Tow Mater, the tow truck from the animated movie "Cars," to be provided by Carolina Glass.

Friends of Caroline Hospice has moved its annual Festival of Trees to The Shed on Paris Avenue from the Charles Lind Brown Center in Beaufort. The gala is Thursday, with viewings Friday and Saturday, and the 5K Jingle Jog on Saturday.

Also this weekend, three days of holiday festivities are planned in downtown Beaufort. They start with A Night on the Town from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday. The event will include music, food, performances and the lighting of the city's Christmas tree on Freedom Mall at 8:15 p.m. by Santa and Mayor Billy Keyserling.

"We live in such a great community, and the community is really what makes the holiday spirit," Main Street Beaufort, USA, executive director LaNelle Fabian said.

The annual Light Up the Night boat parade on the Beaufort River, past the seawall in the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, will be from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

Attention shifts from water to land Sunday, with the annual Christmas parade throughout downtown, starting at 3 p.m.

Celebrations continue the following weekend, with Wreaths Across America decorating at 11 a.m. Dec. 14 at Beaufort National Cemetery. Wreaths purchased with donations from people and organizations will be laid on veterans' graves.

Port Royal's annual Golf Cart Christmas Parade will be at 5:15 p.m. Dec. 14 starting at the Cypress Wetlands and ending at Live Oaks Park.

Other events, concerts and shows are also planned throughout the community.

For Lemieux, it's one of the best times of the year.

"I get more out of it than anybody thinks because of the children," he said, "and the old folks, too. They might be 80 years old, but they have a smile in there and I want to bring it out."

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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