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The town of Ridgeland wasted no time getting ready for the holiday season. '
Lighted decorations started popping up along Main Street and Jacob Smart Boulevard shortly after Halloween, though they weren't turned on until last Friday.'
"We started about a month ago," town administrator Jason Taylor said about decorating the streets.'
The town and Hardeeville are planning several public events for the Christmas season. '
Whether it's setting up Christmas displays or hanging garland, town officials say preparing early is essential when there are thousands of Christmas lights involved -- especially at Ridgeland's Blue Heron Nature Trail.'
The trail is the site of Ridgeland's annual Festival of Lights and Music, which features dozens of lighted displays and live music performances during the holiday season. Taylor said the decorative light display, which costs nearly $80,000, draws about 7,000 visitors each year.'
This year's lighted scenery will include three new displays featuring Christmas scenes with Santa and a campfire. The trail will be open daily from 6 to 10 p.m. through Dec. 31.'
But it's not only the lights enticing people to the town-sponsored event, it's the special performances too, said Delia Caskey, an administrative coordinator at Blue Heron Learning Center.'
"It's been really good," she said of the entertainment, which includes groups singing popular Christmas carols.'
Though the trail already is lighted, the official kickoff for the festival begins today with the Sun City Syncopators performing at the new lakeside pavilion at the trail after the parade. Cookies and hot chocolate will be served.'
On Sunday, several local churches will sing carols along the path beginning at 8 p.m. And Caribbean-style Christmas music by the Pantasia Steel Band will be featured at the pavilion at 6 p.m. Dec. 9.'
Troubadour Mike Kavanaugh of Hilton Head Island will perform at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 13, and Kim Poovey, a Victorian storyteller, will entertain children with Christmas tales from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Dec. 20. Hot dogs will be served to children who attend.'
Besides the Festival of Lights and Music, Ridgeland will have its annual Christmas parade at 6:30 p.m. today.'
Town employees said the parade has been around forever, but this is only the third or fourth year it's been held in the evening.'
"People have responded very well to the night parade," Taylor said. '
The lighted night parade will begin at the corner of Logan and Main streets, move on to Green Street, continue down Wilson Street and end at Harold Turpin Memorial Park.'
Hardeeville also has holiday festivities in the works.'
Residents and tourists will have the opportunity to drive through various lighted Christmas displays at the city's community campus on Main Street starting Dec. 11.'
The Hardeeville Christmas drive-through, a new holiday event for the city, will run down a road that cuts through the recreation park on the campus. City Councilwoman Bea Jones and the Hardeeville Business Association are organizing the project, which includes an 8-foot-tall nativity scene, a jack-in-the-box and a water-skiing Santa Claus.'
"That's my personal favorite," Jones said of the athletic Santa.'
She said the drive-through display is a "neat" way to celebrate the holidays.'
Besides a scenic Christmas drive, residents can look forward to the annual Hardeeville Christmas Parade at 10 a.m. Dec. 11. The parade will be presented by the Greater Hardeeville Chamber of Commerce.'
Chamber director June Smith said she is expecting 50 to 60 floats.'
Highlights of the parade will include the Jasper County High School band; the Viper Fish, a 1960 submarine built by local resident Dan Taylor; the Shriners of Savannah; and floats from local churches.'
"The churches always have beautiful floats," Smith said.'
The parade will begin on Main Street at the Community Center and continue through Heyward, Boyd and Ulmer streets, and U.S. 17. It will end at the Community Center.'
Later that evening, the city's annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony will take place at 6 p.m. in front of the Community Center. Residents are invited to attend and sing Christmas songs, as well as take a drive through the holiday lights at the center.'
"We want to get people interested and involved," Jones said.