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Patrons meet reindeer, sing carols, enjoy treats

Christmas in the Park and tree lighting

POSTED: December 2, 2009 9:10 a.m.
Photo by Lawrence Dorsey/

After the tree lighting Monday night in downtown Hinesville's Bradwell Park, Christmas in the Park attendees held candles and sang "Silent Night."

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Santa and his reindeer flew in to town early Monday night as the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Hinesville Development Authority kicked off the holiday season with Christmas in the Park.
At least 1,000 people gathered for the festivities.
“This is our first time here,” Sadie Reutzal said. “The kids didn’t believe the reindeer were real.”
The celebration has been a mainstay for Hinesville for several years and has grown tremendously during the past three years, organizers said.
“It used to be just choral groups and tree lighting, and now we have created a whole Christmas in the Park theme,” said Chamber Executive Director Kenny Smiley. “It’s just a great way to begin the holiday season, give the community something to do and show off our beautiful city.”
The Grinch couldn’t steal Christmas from Cindy Lou Who, as the pair posed for pictures with patrons at The Heritage Bank's booth.
Carolers came from of several local choirs, including Baconton Missionary Baptist Church and the Snelson-Golden Middle School chorus.
And decorating Christmas cookies took on new meaning as visitors took turns adorning cookies made from organic ingredients at the Keep Liberty County Beautiful booth.
“This is our second year doing this,” said KLCB Director Sara Swida, “and we just love it. It’s a great way to the start the season and teach children about recycling and using organic products.”
Children encircled the park's Christmas tree and enjoyed warm popcorn and candy canes. Area businesses kept their doors open for last-minute shoppers.
“This is the time of year that calls for us to get together and enjoy the Christmas season … and this year, we wanted to get everything started early,” Mayor Jim Thomas said. “We wanted to get people downtown where the businesses are so that they can see what the city has to offer.”
“And most of all, we want people to take the time to be thankful, to thank our soldiers who are serving overseas, who have allowed us to be here,” he said. “Without them, this would not be possible.”
Although the 3rd Infantry Division currently has one-fourth of its soldiers deployed, and more will leave this month, Fort Stewart was well-represented at the event.
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Phillips, senior commander of the division, was on hand to light the Christmas tree and Col. Lou Lartigue, commander of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and his wife Michele sampled fried fish from the booth sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans of America, chapter 789.
The couple said events like Christmas in the Park really make military families feel at home.
“We were just telling each other how wonderful it is that the communities in the Coastal Empire get together more than anywhere we have ever lived,” Lartigue said. “It’s kind of like you’re not just a visitor, but you’re at home. That’s the feeling I get here, and it’s a great feeling.”
 

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