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Vista Lights helps kick off the holidays

The lighting of the Vista Lights Christmas tree marks the kickoff to the holiday season for many.
The lighting of the Vista Lights Christmas tree marks the kickoff to the holiday season for many. The State

When The Vista’s merchants offer refreshments, local bands play live music, Mayor Steve Benjamin lights a tree, and Santa Claus poses for photos on Lincoln Street, you know the holidays have arrived.

You know it’s Vista Lights.

For more than three decades, Vista Lights has helped kick off the season in Columbia with a festive celebration culminating with the ceremonial lighting of the Christmas tree that glows throughout the holidays in the heart of The Vista.

“It’s the best time of the year to kick off the holidays,” said Meredith Atkinson, executive director of the Vista Guild. “It’s not too early and not in the heart of all the holiday events. Things get so busy in Columbia in December and the Vista is thrilled to kick off the holidays in Midlands with Vista Lights each year.”

Vista Lights is an open house with the artistic performances, live music and dancing. More than 65 merchants — galleries, shops and restaurants — in the Vista open their doors to showcase their wares, many offering treats and refreshments to browsers and shoppers. You can also purchase beer and wine on the street and stroll through the heart of the Vista enjoying the lights, dancing and music.

“It’s one of a kind,” Atkinson said. “It’s not every day we get to walk in the middle of Gervais Street with food and drinks. There’s truly something for everyone. We have a free kid’s zone featuring face painting, balloon artistry, and visits and photos with Santa. Our restaurants will offer incredible food and drink specials and the Vista Guild has a $5 beer and wine truck on the corner of Lincoln and Gervais.

“This is a party that all will enjoy.”

Festivities for the 33rd annual Vista Lights begin at 5 p.m. The tree lighting ceremony starts at 6:15 p.m. with seasonal music and dance performances by local organizations. Mayor Benjamin will light the tree at 7 p.m. Prettier than Matt will play on stage immediately following the tree lighting and then Soda City Jazz Band will begin at 8 p.m.

While the tree lighting is the ceremonial focus of Vista Lights, Lincoln Street will be the hub of activity for the event.

There will be a market with local vendors, an area where kids can get do kids’ things like get their faces painted, and Santa will be hanging around to take photos with folks of all ages.

“Vista Lights organically grows every year,” Atkinson says. “We have thousands and thousands of people surrounding the stage at 7:00 when we light the tree and it is truly magical. More and more businesses participate each year and many go all out. They put the effort in to ensure our guests are getting the best deals, food, and drinks.”

If you go

When: 5-10 p.m. Nov. 15

Where: The Congaree Vista, with pedestrian-only traffic on Gervais Street from Assembly to Gadsden; and Lincoln and Park Streets, between Senate and Lady Streets

Cost: Free

Details: www.vistacolumbia.com.

What You Need to Know

  • Lincoln and Park streets will be closed to vehicular traffic from 5-10 p.m., and Gervais Street in the heart of the Vista will be closed to traffic from 6-10 p.m.
  • The tree lighting ceremony begins at 6:15 p.m. at the intersection of Gervais and Lincoln Streets.
  • Prettier than Matt will play on stage immediately following the tree lighting and then Soda City Jazz Band will begin at 8 p.m.
  • There will be a Kids Zone with face painting, balloon artists and more on Lincoln Street.
  • Merry Marketplace, with vendors offering unique, locally crafted good, will also be on Lincoln Street.
  • Santa will be hanging out on Lincoln Street from 5:30-9 p.m. The jolly dude loves having his photo taken with folks of all ages, so bring your own camera to snap photos with Santa.
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