Lighting up Christmas Town – McAdenville, North Carolina

Dec 2, 2010 by

When I moved to the Charlotte area, one of the things folks would tell me I had to see was the Christmas lights in McAdenville. “It’s absolutely beautiful,” and “they go out of their way to decorate the houses,” and “wait’ll you hear the bells near the lake.” Cynical me, I was always of the belief that if you’ve seen one Christmas lights display, you’ve pretty much seen them all.

It’s a good thing that’s not necessarily true.

McAdenville aka Christmastown

On one end of Charlotte, at 20 bucks per carload of eight, you have Bruton Smith’s massive display inside Charlotte Motor Speedway. I’m sure this is going to be some technological wonder with over a million LED lights and a live nativity (which I’ll be getting a peek at next week, so keep an eye out here). Further south in Gaston county, the mill town of McAdenville has their own display of lights which runs along Main Street. Something they’ve been doing since 1955. Free, of course, making it all sound like a holiday David and Goliath.

Charlie Brown’s Christmas play vs. Snoopy’s Christmas lights contest.

In this corner….weighing in at….

Each year, McAdenville proves that the wow factor of lights and animated displays can only go so far. Don’t get me wrong. Drive through town and you’ll find your car stopped, staring at some beautifully decorated home or a lavishly lit fir tree. That’s happened to me quite a few times. Catch the right angle within your peripheral vision and it’s like the world’s largest Christmas tree just exploded and you’re in the middle of the aftermath.

But it ain’t just about the lights.

I got to the lawn of the Pharr Family YMCA just as the talented Gaston Christian Honors Ensemble choir started singing Christmas carols and songs about (ugh) fruitcake. I think that’s when it hit me. Again. And it stayed with me during the afternoon’s invocation, and while the equally talented McAdenville Elementary students were playfully stomping their feet, loudly wishing us a Merry Christmas, singing how they “can’t wait to turn the lights on.” At this point, neither can I!

Wizard Snoopy

Watching the one lucky 2nd grade boy from McAdenville Elementary who got to flip the switch just a few minutes shy of 5:30, transforming McAdenville into a Christmas wonderland, he sure looked a bit nervous, yet did a tremendous job. Afterward, we were directed to the free hot chocolate and cookies. We even got to see Santa Claus. That’s still a treat. At 40, I still find myself smiling whenever I see Santa. I probably will when I’m 60.

Now take your trip through town. Look at the 375 decorated fir trees. The multicolored fountain and Old Man Winter blowing snow across the lake. Now listen to the bells chiming The First Noel, Silent Night, and We Wish You A Merry Christmas as you drive with your headlights off, allowing the shining Christmas colors to illuminate your way. Families standing outside of their houses and cars loaded with families, openly wishing each other a “Merry Christmas.” You can still wish folks a merry Christmas in McAdenville, without the worry of offending anyone.

It ain’t just about the lights.

Sure we were delivered a slight blow, finding out that Frosty was injured and sitting this year out on disability (I sure hope Frosty’s caught up on his premiums…I hear melting snow’s a killer). They did say that he’s still lurking about town, peeking out of a window. It’s up to us to spot him. I never did find him on my walk through, but that’s what second trips are there for.

Old Man Winter across the lake

Making it just about the lights would be too easy. Give me some tape and a string of lights and I’m sure I could come up with something. Give a company an unlimited budget with a “have at it boys” mentality toward setting up your lights and displays and I’ll bet it’s great. Seeing the season once again through the eyes of a child, as well as reminding us what Christmas is truly about? An entire town freely giving the gift of the season to anyone who wants to take a drive or a stroll? Ten Charlotte Motor Speedway displays can’t duplicate that.

The display will run until 9:30 on weeknights and 11:00pm on weekends until December 26. If you’d like more information, check out McAdenville’s website at