HALEYVILLE - “City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style”, is how a verse of the traditional Christmas song “Silver Bells” begins. It also includes within its chorus the line “It’s Christmas time in the city”.
A partnership between the City of Haleyville, the Haleyville Area Chamber of Commerce and Haleyville City Schools will bring that song to life Saturday, December 5, when the downtown area will be all aglow with holiday lights adorning merchants’ windows along with the hustle and bustle of people participating in a variety of holiday festivities.
From holiday vendors along Main Street to the thrill of a Christmas parade to the lighting of a Christmas tree and holiday ensembles, choirs and singers--Christmas in the City will bring it all together. The idea for such a festive occasion came from a chamber of commerce board meeting, but soon became a combined effort of three primary entities to make sure everyone’s holiday season is merry and bright.
HCS Superintendent Dr. Holly Sutherland said the concept has been tossed around for at least two years, during which time Walmart donated two 14-foot tall trees. That donation led to the idea of having a downtown Christmas festival.
Since Haleyville’s annual Christmas parade is usually the first Friday in December, the idea continued to grow to move the parade over one day to Saturday, Dec. 5 and have it as part of the Christmas festival.
Families on that day are encouraged to come downtown beginning at noon where there is open air and plenty of room to spread out and keep socially distanced during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Vendors will consist of local merchants, many of which have been affected by loss of sales during the pandemic.
This would be a day for grocery stores and other merchants to offer discounts, Sutherland noted.
“Even if you don’t have a brick and mortar store downtown, you can bring a booth,” Sutherland pointed out.
Vendors who do not have an existing business in town will need to pay a $50 vendor registration fee for their space in the downtown area, organizers said.
“If you have a brick and mortar store in town, you don’t have to pay for a booth. We just give you a space,” she added.
Arts and crafts or retail vendor applications are currently available on the Haleyville Area Chamber of Commerce website, haleyvillechamber.org, or by calling the chamber office at 205-486-4611.
Registration forms and payment in full for applicable merchants must be turned in by Dec. 1. No refunds will be issued.
Vendor forms can be mailed to Haleyville Are Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 634, Haleyville, AlL 35565.
Vendors are required to provide their own extension cord of at least 100 feet for electrical hook up.
Throughout the afternoon, live music will be performed, featuring school groups, teachers, churches and other ensembles that will perform each hour on the hour. Some of the performances will be at the amphitheatre, while others will be on the library steps.
In between these performances, Christmas music will be piped through a sound system for everyone to enjoy while strolling about.
“It’s a good day for us to do something downtown and get families together,” Sutherland pointed out.
Line-up for the parade will begin at 5 p.m. at Haleyville Elementary School and Haleyville High School, with the parade making its annual trek, complete with Santa, through the downtown area beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Schools, churches, civic clubs, and all groups or individuals are encouraged to have a vehicle or float in the all-glow parade.
Following the parade at 7 p.m., Mayor Ken Sunseri will conduct the tree lighting ceremony in front of the Haleyville Public Library on Main Street.
Plans are for children or the public to have pictures made standing beside Santa instead of children sitting in his lap, which is being restricted during the pandemic.
If for some reason Santa isn’t able to make it, an eye-catching Christmas display, where pictures can be made, will be located near the tree.
School groups will be designing and decorating ornaments that will be placed on the tree the week of the festival, according to organizers.
During the tree lighting, the school’s jazz ensemble will be performing holiday favorites.
The Haleyville Historical Society will have hot chocolate and apple cider available at the live cedar tree that will also be decorated in front of the Teal Professional Building at the west end of Main Street.
“Other towns in the area are also having some things that day, so we hope countywide and across counties, everyone gets out and supports (each other),” Sutherland said.
Mike Evans, president of the Haleyville Area Chamber of Commerce, noted that local merchants would be participating in the Chamber’s annual Bonus Bucks program, but in a different way this year.
The public can register for the Bonus Bucks drawings (to be held in front of the library after the Christmas parade) at local vendor displays throughout the day.
“This year, we will have more than we have had in the past on Bonus Bucks,” Evans stated.
This year, 20 $50 packets will be given away, as well as 10 $100 packets, a $200 packet and the grand prize of $300.
“We’re going to give away $2,500 in total,” he said. “All they have to do is come down here and register, and those names will be drawn out after the parade and before the Christmas tree lighting.”
Christmas in the City is also filling a major void experienced by the city earlier this year due to the pandemic.
“This is the first time for this event,” said Evans. “Part of the idea was birthed because we missed our 9-1-1 festival this year. We thought it was a good time to create something around the holiday that resembled that event.”
In fact, Chamber board member Kris Burleson expressed that it would be nice to have a Christmas event compared to events seen in movies shown on the Hallmark channel each Christmas season.
“Christmas in the City is the perfect setting to spread holiday cheer for our hometown of Haleyville,” Burleson said.
“This event will allow our community to come together and celebrate the spirit of Christmas with family, friends and the community as a whole,” Burleson added.
Sunseri emphasizes strict
guidelines amid pandemic
Sunseri said the COVID pandemic has restricted the city in many ways. Even Christmas in the City will be modified, requiring those attending and participating to wear facial coverings, with the public being encouraged to keep a six-foot social distance.
“This (festival) gives us an opportunity to try to bring the community together,” Sunseri said. “We are going to do everything we can to keep people safe, but in the same respect, it will give them an opportunity to have pictures made with Santa, to visit with some of the local merchants.”
limitations due to COVID
COVID cases are continuing to rise, and state officials have warned against large social gatherings during the holiday season.
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, during a recent press conference with Governor Kay Ivey, suggested limiting social gatherings this holiday season as COVID cases continue to rise, but did encourage more outdoor activities if possible.
“This is a time of year for people to really be careful about who they gather with,” Harris said.
“We all want to get together to see our family during holiday time, and yet this is a special year,” Harris added. “This is a year unlike any we’ve ever had.”
Harris encouraged people to look for opportunities to do that in a safe way, including having gatherings virtually, which is safer.
“If you are in a house with people from other households, try to distance yourself to the extent you can,” he said.
“If the weather permits, try to do things outdoors if you can,” Harris continued. “Be mindful of hygiene and sanitation. One of the most important ones we keep trying to emphasize, if you don’t feel well, please stay at home.”
Sunseri noted that enforcement of such measures is extremely difficult.
“The school has done a tremendous job trying to keep everything sanitized, making sure the kids have meals.
“We do the same thing here,” Sunseri said about Haleyville City Hall. “We spray every office in this building every morning. We take temperature checks. We provide hand sanitizer. We provide gloves.
“We’re doing everything we can do and we still have people exposed,” the mayor pointed out. “We don’t know where, how or when. It’s a real concern.
“...We can’t predict what the future will bring,” said Sunseri. “We’re trying to have an outdoor event that would be beneficial to everyone, and everyone can be safe and enjoy it.”
Sunseri is excited that the city can have an event to celebrate the holiday season in as safe a manner as possible.
“We’re just doing the best we can with what we have,” he said.
“This event has something for everyone,” Burleson noted. “While this is our first event, I do hope Christmas in the City will be a long standing tradition that gives everyone something to mark on their yearly calendar.”
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.