Emily M. Hobbs Staff Writer
December 4, 2013
Monday night Newton Grove launched its holiday season by illuminating the town’s circle, people’s spirits, and families’ lives. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Circle of Lights in downtown Newton Grove, and residents and others with ties to the community marked the occasion with great holiday spirit.
Starting at 6 p.m., the group, numbering in the hundreds, gathered to remember and honor family and friends of the community, and also to spend time in fellowship. The tradition, which began in 1998, has become a staple of the community, say organizers.
The Newton Grove Area 100 Committee and the town of Newton Grove, along with other businesses, have helped keep the tradition alive.
The ceremony, which holds true to the local community, involves clergy, town officials, volunteers, as well as others who have had a long standing tradition of working with this program. Katie Paul, pastor of Newton Grove United Methodist Church, said offered an invocation, blessing the participants and their families, and Mayor Gerald Darden held the countdown to illumination, a time-honored tradition of the event. The program was the heart of the mayor’s wife, Gail Darden, and Sue Vernon, both of First Citizens Bank, who initiated the Circle of Lights as a way to draw the community together during the holiday season.
“First Citizens Bank supports this by letting us have the time to work on this project,” said Vernon.
The illumination ceremony is always held the first Monday of the month of December with the Christmas parade being held the next Saturday, said organizers.
“The circle has 31 trees planted around it,” pointed out Darden during the ceremony. “We quickly realized that that was not going to be enough, so the signs with multiple names were made.” The signs are yet another way to commemorate individuals and families.
Brent Hood sang traditional Christmas songs in between the reading of the names, and he provided his sound system for the occasion. His singing and music added a special touch to allow the crowd to reminisce. Everyone joined in on two versus of Silent Night to end the event.
“It’s a right big job getting all this done, and TMS is a great help,” said Vernon in a phone interview Tuesday. Transformer Maintenance & Service, Inc. (TMS) helped with the lights this year as they have in the past, which included the lights on the trees as well as putting up the angels on the light poles surrounding the circle. The completed illumination brightens up the downtown and adds a festive atmosphere to the circle, bringing in the holiday spirit. Gene Thornton also helps with the lights making sure all the cords are ready and that everything is in its place.
“The town of Newton Grove helps in a lot of ways, and these are the only lights they have, the lights on the circle,” she added. The ceremony and the memorials assist families in bringing peace to those that participate in the program and have the chance to see the memorials that are in place. The money that is taken in each year goes towards the maintenance of the circle, including cutting back the trees and spraying for fire ants if the need arises.
“These people get so much from doing this for their loved ones. It brings peace to these people,” said Vernon. “Newton Grove is a special place with special people.” Vernon said that everyone really appreciates the dedication from those that are involved in making this happen every year. The ceremony blesses a lot of people as do the lights.
“Children think about it also, especially riding around the circle,” said Vernon. She said that often children remark on the lights being off after Christmas and that is something that brings out community awareness.
“This is an endless circle to honor and remember our loved ones,” said Vernon.
Emily M. Hobbs can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 122 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org