Lake Norman & Mooresville

The town that saved Christmas

In the face of budget and staff cuts, the town of Davidson had to get extra creative this year to deliver the kind of Christmas residents have come to expect.

And event planners promise this year's Christmas in Davidson is going to be better than ever.

"This is a huge community bonding experience," said town commissioner Connie Wessner. "It's a celebration of our community."

The event will run from 6-9 p.m. Dec. 2 through Dec. 4 in downtown Davidson.

In the spring, the town significantly cut its staff, said Megan Pillow Davis, town public information officer. While in years past it has been the downtown manager's job to handle the logistics of Christmas in Davidson, the town hired Tina Gibson of Imagine Music Group to perform that job this year.

Interim downtown director Kim Fleming "has a lot on her plate," said Davis. "We thought it was best to just contract out to this particular event-planning company because they're the specialists."

Davis said the change probably would not be noticed by residents and that Gibson's fee will come from sponsorships and commission, not taxpayer dollars.

And while last year's budget for the event was $35,770, this year's budget is $30,800.

Gibson said the usual highlights of Christmas in Davidson will be present: horse-drawn carriages, carolers dressed in Victorian costumers, hay wagon rides and Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus.

Gibson also said more musical acts will perform this year, with continuous acts on two main stages: one on Main Street at the Village Green and the other on South Main at South Main Square.

About 35,000 visitors are expected over three days, up from 10,000 last year, said Gibson.

Karen Toney, manager at the Ben and Jerry's ice cream shop on Main Street, said she thinks the event has grown in popularity because it's affordable and family oriented.

"I think families really want places where they can go together," she said. "This event highlights why Davidson is such a great town. Our Main Street - they don't make them like this anymore."

Despite its growing popularity, Toney said, those closest to the event don't want it to grow to the scale of McAdenville's Christmas celebration.

"Is bigger always better? Not for us, because it doesn't represent what Davidson is," she said.

"We want to grow with the natural growth. It isn't our goal to get that big."

In keeping with the desire to maintain a small, homegrown community event, Davis said, more local vendors will have prime locations at this year's event.

"The vendors you're going to see this year are going to be your neighbors, people who live in Davidson," she said. "This is Christmas in Davidson. We want to make sure the focus remains on the community."

Added Wessner: "The point is to pull the community together and get out and enjoy the best part about this town: our strong ties to each other."