Who says the holiday season starts the day after Thanksgiving? It starts, if you believe the organizers of Vista Lights, tonight.
In its 24th year, Vista Lights, the party on Gervais Street, will combine food, art and entertainment. If you don't believe the holidays start tonight, you should be there for the Christmas tree lighting.
And if there's a Christmas tree, that means holiday shopping is right around the corner. I believe that is definitely true tonight.
Besides a warm coat, here are a few things to help you navigate the start of the holiday season - at least for one night.
THROW THE SWITCH
Mayor Bob Coble, who isn't seeking re-election, will light the Vista Lights Christmas tree for the final time. The tree-lighting ceremony is at 7 p.m.
"I've enjoyed every single Christmas lighting," Coble said. "Hopefully, for years to come I'll be there with my grandchildren participating as a regular citizen."
So, are there any tips for the next mayor? "All you do is just stand there. And we say, 'One, two, three,' and somebody else turns it on. That's 90 percent of being there."
DRIVING IN CIRCLES
Who hasn't done that when trying to park for Vista Lights, Viva La Vista or Artista Vista? Why not just use one of the Vista's parking desks?
The decks are on Lincoln Street between Lady and Washington streets; Park Street between Pendleton and Senate streets; and Assembly at Lady street. There's also parking available in the lot behind M Vista, and you can park at the State Museum and take a shuttle ride to Gervais Street.
HORSE AND BUGGY
Why wait until you go to Charleston? Make Vista Lights romantic by taking a horse-drawn carriage ride. (You might want to sit on the back row if you really want to make it romantic.)
WINE AND CHEESE
At previous Vista Lights, guests have been treated with wine and hors d'oeuvres at the galleries and shops. This year, there still will be free snacks at some places, but the wine and beer you'll have to buy on the street. Ah, come on, you know how hard times are. The beverages will be sold on the corner of Lincoln and Gervais streets and in front of Longhorn Steakhouse.
Stunting in your new winter coat - if it's cold enough - will be your own fashion show. But there will be an actual fashion show by Bella Vista Bridal & Wedding Boutique.
Bella Vista will show couture gowns by upscale designers such as Melissa Sweet, Priscilla of Boston and Lazaro.
"We'll be showing at least 20 wedding gowns," said Larry Judice, the boutique's director of operations. We're probably going to have the snow machine again this year. "Everybody seemed to enjoy that last year."
SONG AND DANCE
There will be several performances on the stage set up near the Christmas tree on Gervais and Lincoln streets.
Sage Flower: Flower, an Oklahoman, walks the red dirt roads of alt-country music.
UNBOUND Dance Company: The company will perform a contemporary dance to Sarah McLachlan's "Silent Night," as well as a dance to "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" with candy canes. Giant candy canes.
Carolina Ballet: The company will perform snippets of "The Nutcracker."
John Tudor: The magician will perform tricks.
Also performing: the White Knoll High School Choir; Eau Claire Trombone Choir and Eau Claire Jazz Band; Double Dutch Forces; and the U.S. Army Brass Quintet.
HIDEOUTS (FROM THE COLD)
Several galleries and stores will be hosting events during Vista Lights. You'll need to look in all of them to find something that suits you. Here are three places to start:
- Post No Bills will be filming a grime-scene investigation. Everybody who walks into the office will be subject to interrogation. Questions? Just go, even if just for the DJ and stuffed chicken wings from 2 Fat 2 Fly.
- At City Art there will be a performance by the Wideman/Davis Dance Company and a trunk show of hand-woven apparel by Terri Goddard. Painters Wanda Steppe and Harriet Marshall Goode will have an exhibition, and jewelry artist Cindy Saad will show her work.
- The artists at Vista Studios will open their studios to guests.