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Christmas Town USA opens 61st season on Thursday night

Drivers carefully navigate through McAdenville on Dec. 1, 2015 after the town’s tree lighting ceremony for Christmas. The streaking lights of cars was created using a 30-second time exposure.
Drivers carefully navigate through McAdenville on Dec. 1, 2015 after the town’s tree lighting ceremony for Christmas. The streaking lights of cars was created using a 30-second time exposure. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

With a local first-grader’s flip of a large switch, a half-million red, white and green lights are scheduled to turn on at 6 p.m. Thursday to begin McAdenville’s 61st annual Christmas Town USA season.

The free annual display drew 600,000 visitors in 2015, making Christmas Town USA one of the top Christmas attractions in North Carolina. Most visitors to the eastern Gaston County town inch along the 1.3-mile route in cars, while others walk.

The lights will glow nightly through Dec. 26: 5:30-9:30 p.m. weekdays and 5:30 to 11 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. At least 30 timers throughout town turn the lights on and off regardless of rain and other poor weather.

Here are some tips if you plan to visit the display:

▪  Avoid riding in on a horse, mule, donkey, llama or alpaca, which are banned.

▪  Hayrides are welcome, if the wagon is pulled by a vehicle.

▪  Feel free to walk your dog along the route, but keep it leashed and under your control.

▪  The least crowded nights are Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Expect tremendous traffic on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

▪  Lights go off at the end time each night, regardless of the number of cars in line.

▪  Only one route goes through Christmas Town USA. If you enter McAdenville from Interstate 85, once you get to the town limits, continue through town until you reach U.S. 29-74. At that point, you will leave Christmas Town. If you enter town from U.S. 29-74 from the Charlotte area, continue through town until you reach I-85. At that point, you will leave Christmas Town.

Each year, a different student at McAdenville Elementary gets to flip the switch to begin the display. This year’s honor goes to first-grade student Sanaa Sade Swain of Gastonia. The official lighting ceremony begins at 5 p.m. on the plaza in front of Pharr Family YMCA, 208 Main St., beside McAdenville Baptist Church.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

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