11/23/11 — Holidays officially begin with "Lights Up Downtown"

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Holidays officially begin with "Lights Up Downtown"

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on November 23, 2011 1:46 PM

It was almost too much for Daniel Baynes Jr. on Tuesday night.

Just 2 years old, the lights lining Center Street, throngs of people and Winnie the Pooh had him unable to focus as he and his father waited in line to see Santa Claus.

"Hello," he said to each person -- and bear -- who looked his way.

But still, Daniel knew he had to wait in line at the castle (City Hall) where Santa lives so he could sit in his lap.

Daniel Baynes, his father, said coming to Lights Up Downtown emerged as a family tradition before his son was even a year old, making this his third Lights Up.

"He was born in September so we brought him out here for the first time when he was real itty-bitty," he said.

Now Daniel toddles around a bit among the estimated crowd of 1,500 who gather to watch the lighting ceremony, visit Santa and vendors and to ride the horse-drawn trolley.

The climax of the event, of course, was Mayor Al King's flipping of the switch to illuminate downtown and to usher in the holiday season for Goldsboro residents.

But for Jasir Harper, 5, the trolley ride was the main draw, despite his concerns about how fast the trolley was going.

"I had fun when they were going fast. I looked down at the road and they were speeding," he said with a smile. "They were going fast like a dinosaur."

The trolley rides weren't just for children, though, as two couples were patiently waiting in line for more than half an hour to get aboard.

Wayne and Brenda Williams have lived in Goldsboro for 40 years, they said, and had been to Lights Up "quite a few times," this year joined by Danny and Linda Sellers.

"We try to come every year," Williams said as his wife eyed the lit holly trees she has grown so accustomed to seeing each year.

She expressed how happy she was that the trees had not been cut down while her husband added how perfect it was to have the Paramount Theatre downtown for a holiday performance to follow the lighting event.

And although they were in good spirits at the front of the line, there was no less holiday cheer in the back of the line where Roxann Barnes sat with her grandson, Brayden, 3, in lounge chairs.

"We're diehards," she said, explaining her tailgating. "We do this every year. We were sitting on the cement watching the music until the line died down."

And although the line at one point extended down Center Street and halfway down Walnut Street, when she asked Brayden if he wanted to go home there was no doubt that he wanted to stay.

"He said no. We have to ride the trolley," she said.

For those who missed out on the lighting ceremony and the first trolley rides of the season, though, there are many opportunities to head downtown and enjoy the sights. The downtown Christmas lights and water tower will be lit every night from 4:30 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. through Jan. 4 and trolley rides will be offered every Tuesday through Christmas from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m.