Santa Claus really is coming to town.
In fact, he and his reindeer are causing such a stir that Main Street will be blocked off Tuesday evening for Hinesville’s fourth annual Christmas in the Park celebration.
The Liberty County Chamber of Commerce and Hinesville Downtown Development Authority will host the event, which is scheduled to run from 5:30-8:30 p.m.
While sitting in his sled behind a team of live reindeer, Santa will pose for photos with children and parents. Photos will be taken by a professional photographer, printed and sold on site for attendees to take home.
“Santa is generously lending us his reindeer for the evening as they use this event as exercise to prepare for their real flight on Dec 24th. They will be flying in straight from the North Georgia area to grace us for a few hours with their magical presence,” said Leah Poole, interim chamber director.
The free event generally brings in a couple thousand people each year, despite bitterly cold temperatures. “It is a madhouse,” Poole said. “[But] it is a lot of fun to see all those kids.”
She said community participation and sponsors have helped make Christmas in the Park a wildly popular free celebration.
Bradwell Institute construction students built a faux gingerbread house and art students added colorful painted details. The house will serve as a backdrop for photos, Poole said.
Ace Hardware donated all the supplies for the collapsible house, which will be used for years to come, the interim director said.
Stations will be set up throughout Bradwell Park for children and parents to decorate organic Christmas cookies, make ornaments and create other arts and crafts to take home.
“There will also be entertainment from local choirs, dance teams and an instrumentalist all evening in the park,” said Genese Baker, chamber membership and programs director.
Guests can also expect lots of free food, Poole said, including popcorn, hot chocolate, hot cider and cookies.
Around 8:10 p.m., attendees will be given candles and the crowd will sing “Silent Night” before the Christmas tree is lit at 8:30.
Admission to Christmas in the Park is free, but there will be a charge for photos with Santa and for plated dinners of hotdogs, chili, fried fish and funnel cakes. The Liberty County Blazers and the Gum Branch Fire Department, both nonprofits, will be preparing and serving the food for fundraising purposes.
In previous years, local groups hosted separate events in the downtown district to celebrate in the holiday season, according to Vicki Davis, director of the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority. Then four years ago, the HDDA and the Chamber of Commerce decided to combine their festivities and host one big event for the community, which is how Christmas in the Park came to be.
The Main Street area will be blocked off during the event, Poole said.