MCADENVILLE If youve never been to Christmas Town USA and are planning a visit, keep this in mind: Dont be in a hurry.
Theres no quick way to view the annual spectacle in the eastern Gaston County town of McAdenville.
The half-million red, white and green lights that flashed to life on Monday will shine nightly through Dec. 26.
The event is free, and long lines are normal. Many people plan to spend a couple of hours waiting in line and driving through. Signs on U.S. 74 and Interstate 85 direct people to certain routes.
Some visitors like to find a parking place and walk through the town. There are several parking areas: the municipal lot off Poplar Street behind the business section (including the Village Restaurant) on Main Street; the Pharr Yarns parking lot at 100 Main St.; McAdenville Elementary School on Wesleyan Drive; and behind the McAdenville Baptist/CaroMont clinic on Main Street an area accessed by turning onto Elm Street.
But most people ride through town, and traffic is usually bumper-to-bumper. Convertibles, motorcycles and tour buses mix in with the usual line of cars, minivans and pickups.
By Dec. 26, about 600,000 people will have made the pilgrimage to McAdenville, known worldwide as Christmas Town USA. Just this week, a newspaper in Spain ran an article on the North Carolina tradition thats been going on since 1956.
The dazzling lights sponsored by Pharr Yarns, the towns main employer are strung on 375 trees. As few as 500 lights and as many as 5,000 may be used on one tree.
In the heart of town is a lake encircled by more than 30 trees, some as tall as 40 feet. A fountain in the center of the lake shoots water 75 feet into the air, with lights shining a sequence of green, blue and amber.
Many people in vehicles roll down the windows so they can hear the music.
The lights are on 5:30-9:30 p.m. weekdays and 5:30-11 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. The lights are on timers and cut off automatically, no matter how many cars are stuck in line.
To beat the crowds, go early on weeknights. Late Sunday is also a good time to go. Another tip: Bad weather keeps many people at home, making it easier to get through town. But the closer it gets to Christmas, any time is likely to be crowded.
A date to remember is Dec. 13 the Yule Log Parade and Ceremony. The event starts at 5:30 p.m. in front of the Pharr Yarns office at 100 Main St. After the ceremony and parade theres a log-burning at the downtown Legacy Park followed by a Christmas festival with free kettle corn, hot chocolate, cider and coffee.
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