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ChristmasVille begins tonight in Rock Hill

An expanded ice skating rink, a LEGO building contest and entertainment in the new Fountain Park add to the excitement of ChristmasVille, the four-day holiday festival that transforms downtown Rock Hill into a magical winter village beginning tonight, organizers say.

The theme of this year’s 70-event festival, known for having an old-timey feel with strolling Dickens carolers and horse-drawn carriage rides, is “The Gift Goes On” – spotlighting local charities.

Organizers encourage festival-goers to give to others through:

• A Salvation Army kettle on Main Street.

• Bringing jars of peanut butter and jelly to the Christmas Jars’ author’s luncheon for Renew Our Community.

• Giving travel-size toiletries at the Lighting of the Village and grand finale for The Haven Men’s Shelter.

• Donating new children’s pajamas to the Pajamarama Party to benefit the Children’s Attention Home.

• Sharing new toys at Santa’s Workshop for Toys for Happiness.

“For many of the programs and activities, we have designed ways for you to become familiar with some of our nonprofits who do wonderful, much-needed services in our community,” said festival chairwoman Jane Hayes, a lifelong Rock Hill resident.

The festival, in its eighth year, includes a real 50- by 85-foot ice skating rink, a lighted parade, live entertainment and a gingerbread house display.

The event celebrates Christmas while showcasing the whimsical work of artist Vernon Grant, a Rock Hill native and creator of Kellogg’s Rice Krispies “Snap! Crackle! & Pop!” It is organized by the Old Town Association in partnership with the Culture and Heritage Museums of York County.

ChristmasVille’s opening ceremony – The Lighting of the Village – is at 7 tonight at Main Street and Elk Avenue. Winthrop University’s ChristmasVille RockHettes, the Northside Elementary School of the Arts and Zach Ludlum will entertain.

Favorite activities – horse-drawn carriage rides, the Reindeer Romp 5K, the Jingle Bell parade, the gingerbread house contest and the skating rink – return this year. Art, theater, dance and music are woven throughout the festival.

ChristmasVille wraps up Sunday with a holiday concert at 4 p.m., setting up a grand finale of music and fireworks at 5:45 p.m.