Being a small town doesn't seem to dissuade Fremont from ringing in the holidays with a bit of flair.
The town hosted its second annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony Friday evening, welcoming a crowd of people to the parking lot at the corner of Goldsboro Street and Main Street to celebrate the season with music, lights and hot chocolate.
Around 6 p.m., Mayor Darron Flowers took the mic to greet the crowd. He recognized the members of the Fremont's board of Aldermen in attendance, as well as town staff before passing the mic to his wife, Mary Lee, who pressed the button to light up the tree.
Once the lights came on, the show became about music and prayer. Kenan Stewart returned from last year to sing Christmas Carols, followed by the New Daniel Chapel choir. In between, pastor Tim Gore told the Christmas story and led prayer, and Fremon Police Chief Paul Moats read "The Night Before Christmas."
As this was going on, Rebecca Streit watched from near the back of the crowd with her husband, David, and their two young children, Julia and Huxley. The family lives nearby, which made getting to the event simple.
"We thought it would be a fun way to kind of kick off the Christmas season, so we decided to come on down," she said. "We actually live about a block that way, ten minutes walking, so it made it easy."
Eventually, Flowers got back up on stage to talk about what Christmas means for Fremont. He talked about the challenges Fremont has faced since the last time the town held the tree lighting, including the collapse of a building on the corner of Main Street and Sycamore Street and the closing of the town's BB&T bank.
Flowers said that the town has much to be thankful for in the ways that it has recovered and made the best out of those problems.
"Drive by [the fallen building site] and anyone with vision at all look at it, and envision what it's going to look like just six months from now when everything is green and growing," he said. "In between, we had a bank that closed, a terrible loss to the town. But because of the foresight of Barbara Aycock, we got the bank to give it to us, basically, and we got money from the legislature. And now we have a town hall that is enviable to everybody."
Aycock, whom Flower called "the anchor of the town," also spoke. She offered a bit of advice from her grandfather.
"There's one thing that my granddaddy used to tell me as I was growing up, he always said 'please remember this –– the most beautiful things are not associated with money. They are memories and moments. If you don't celebrate those, they can pass you by,'" she said. "This is one of the things we want to cherish with you at Christmas. Don't let those beautiful moments of Christmas pass you by."