Around Town

Could there be a Battle of the Christmas Balls in our midst?

I recently saw my neighbor perched in a tree on E. Worthington Avenue in Dilworth. He was looping a string of white lights around a branch and pulling the wire through to suspend one bright Christmas ball.

You know the ones. They are made of chicken wire wrapped in holiday lights and Hillside Avenue in Myers Park has been famous for them for five years now.

So, my neighbor in the tree — he told me a street-wide email had gone out encouraging the Worthington Avenue residents to string up lights this year.

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I noticed the same thing happening on E. Kingston Avenue.

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I called my friend Jesse Prentice, who lives in Colonial Village. He and his neighbor Joey English started stringing the balls in their front yards (and their neighbors’ front yards) last year. Prentice thought it looked cool.

This year, Moultrie Street is filling up with about 50 Christmas balls, Prentice said. “We wanted to make it look like a starry night when you drive through.”

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Anne Schmitt, a Hillside Avenue resident, doesn’t seem to think it’s a competition. Driving up the street one night, I could see why. The first stretch of street turning off from Park Road is dark and desolate.

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Then you pass through the blinking red street light and — FLOOM. Your line of sight is fuzzed over with color as you crane your neck and try to comprehend the hundreds — yes, hundreds — of Christmas balls. Green, blue, white, red, multi-colored — so many Christmas balls. I felt like I was hallucinating and had tripped into an alternate dimension ruled by fairies.

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Also, I dare someone to count the balls. The Hillsiders hung almost 500 lights in 2014.

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But this isn’t a fairyland. It’s actually a fundraiser. A year into the tradition, Hillside Avenue residents started collecting donations for Loaves and Fishes, a project started by Schmitt’s daughter, Mason, for her Girl Scout Gold Award.

How it works: Schmitt plants a tent outside of her house at 251 Hillside Ave. with food barrels to take in donations of food or money. The reward: a steaming cup of hot cocoa on certain nights of the week leading up to Christmas.

“Sometimes people hand us a $100 bill for a cup of hot chocolate,” Schmitt said.

You’re in luck: The cocoa will be out Dec. 23-24 from 5:30-9 p.m.

So is this the inaugural Battle of the Christmas Balls? I’d say it’s more of a happy epidemic of creativity and light. Schmitt pointed out that it would be great for other Christmas-balled streets to add donation bins, too. It could inspire people to give a little while they get a look at the lights.

Regardless, Schmitt likes seeing the lights spread to other streets. She said, “Any decorations anywhere in the holiday spirit are wonderful.”

They do say it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

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