Downtown Lights Up
By Ty Johnson
Published in News on November 21, 2012 1:46 PM
Brianna Hayes, 8, plays around in bubble soap "snow" during the annual Downtown Lights Up! event in Goldsboro Tuesday. Children and parents alike enjoyed live music, free food, horse-drawn carriage rides and a visit from Santa Claus as the downtown area was lit up for the holiday.
Mayor Al King flips the switch to turn on the lights.
When Mayor Al King threw the switch in downtown Goldsboro Tuesday night, the city lit up with holiday lights that stretched from the southern end of Center Street to the city's iconic water tower.
But for many in the estimated crowd of 1,700, the focus of the city's annual Downtown Lights Up! event was right beneath their feet -- the newly renovated 200 block of north Center Street.
Besides ushering in the holiday season in Goldsboro with carols, trolley rides and Santa visits, the event also served as the grand opening of the city's signature downtown revitalization project: the first phase of the Center Street Streetscape project.
Jennifer Tufts, wrangling two terriers, pointed south from where she stood in front of the City Hall Annex, showing her mother where the renovations were expected to continue.
Ms. Tufts has lived in Goldsboro for about four years, and had gotten quite attached to the street's holly trees by the time Daniels and Daniels Construction Co. began turning up dirt along the city's main street in May.
"When they first did it, I had a fit because I loved those trees," she said. "It was hard to visualize it when they had all those bulldozers."
Now, though, she's happy with the renovations and hopes the city will continue to improve the street into the next block of Center.
Her mother, Karen Tufts, had also grown attached to the trees -- she visits each holiday season from Lexington, Ky. -- but said the changes were beautiful.
"I had no idea," she said. "It still has the charm of old Goldsboro.
"It's a big, big improvement and I never thought I'd say that."
Braided tightly into the newness of the event, however, were family traditions, some more than a decade long, of bringing in the holidays downtown.
Michael West, 11, said he had been to the event every year since he could remember -- a claim his mother substantiated.
Melinda Flores, Cindy Combs and Barbara Anderson were standing with Michael at the front of the line for the holiday trolley as the ceremony began after 5 p.m. with King arriving aboard a trolley with dozens of children.
They had been in line since 4 p.m. to assure they found a place on board a trolley, especially since Timothy Anderson, 8, had never been before.
Across the street, "snow" poured from the sky onto dancing children as parents, holding hot chocolate and cookies, watched and took photographs.
As entertainment from Miss Goldsboro Blair Mozingo, drama actors, carolers and a jazz band continued, King surveyed the scene.
It wasn't clear whether he meant the holiday event turnout or the Streetscape completion when he said, "I couldn't have asked for better."
Likely, it was both.
Downtown trolley rides will continue each Tuesday evening from 5 until 10 p.m. through Dec. 18.