The Leland in Lights Grand Illumination was so successful, I thought to myself, “I am so proud to be here.” Being selected as the statewide partner for Leland in Lights was incredibly exciting and I have loved working alongside the Parks & Recreation department to build content and promotions.
I knew this community event would be a great time, but I was still blown away when Dec. 4th rolled around. The amount of lights, smiling visitors, and Christmas cheer in Founder’s Park that day was something special and I felt honored to be apart of it.
The Leland in Lights Grand Illumination began with a stunning NC sunset.
As my team and I worked on setting up our booth at the event, the sky displayed one of the most vibrant sunsets I’ve seen in a while. That breathtaking image combined with the beautiful 65 degree weather made that night more pleasant than anyone could have hoped for.
As the sky darkened, people began filing into the park with chairs and picnic blankets to set up their spot for a view of the tree lighting. Children played on the playground, food trucks rolled in, and visitors began exploring while anxiously waiting for Santa to arrive.
Visitors enjoyed various activations throughout the park.
While Leland in Lights continues every evening through January 10th, the Grand Illumination was meant to be a free kickoff celebration filled with food and special activities.
There was a cute arts & crafts station set up by the town for children to write letters to Santa and color Christmas tree ornaments. Our three-year-old Dean loved this activity and it was difficult to pull him away from it!
A shed graciously provided by Graceland Portable Buildings became an enchanting Santa’s Workshop perfect for photo opportunities. Complete with a festive mailbox for children to send their letters off to Santa, this workshop is also where free visits with him took place later in the evening.
Leland Police and Fire/Rescue were set up with booths and a firetruck to promote their food, clothing, and toy drive “Pack the Patrol Car.” Visitors were able to donate to the cause while children enjoyed exploring the truck and receiving fire hats and badges.
Our NC Eat & Play team had a booth set up with T-shirts for sale along with free candy and glow sticks for children. The glowsticks were an unexpected hit and we had families coming through our booth all night long!
I loved having the opportunity to meet so many members of the community, some that were already loyal followers and others that were excited to learn about our mission. One family, in particular, stood out to me. Although they had never heard of NC Eat & Play, they enthusiastically purchased T-shirts and told me how much they too love exploring North Carolina. They expressed excitement in becoming “Local Wanderlusters” with me.
Sweet Treats and Warm Drinks
Leland Parks & Recreation generously provided refreshments for the crowd with two local food trucks. Brown Dog Coffee rolled up with their charming white camper and served coffee and hot chocolate until they ran out at the end of the night.
Mama Rocks Desserts was also there with cake pops, bread pudding, and cupcakes. They, too, were wiped out by the end of the night and their sweet treats were greatly enjoyed by all in attendance.
The moment everyone was waiting for: Santa’s arrival.
When 6:30 pm rolled around, children were anxiously giggling while the crowd gathered around the large Christmas tree in the middle of the park. It was time for Santa’s grand entrance! A train adorned with twinkling Christmas lights pulled out of the trees with Santa in one of the passenger cars waving to the squealing crowd. The magic in the air was almost tangible.
Santa said a few words to welcome the crowd and then we all counted down for him to light up the magnificent Christmas tree. What I didn’t expect was for all of the other lights surrounding the park to come on at the same time. When the countdown hit one, the park was thrown into an enchanting Christmas wonderland in the blink of an eye.
A Grand Illumination
The rest of the evening was spent exploring the light display throughout the park, waiting in line for train rides, and visits with Santa.
In addition to classic Christmas lights, there were interactive displays, snow machines, tunnels, and more. The lights were impressive and I enjoyed seeing the community exploring them together.
It was a memorable night thanks to the time and energy the team at the Town of Leland Parks & Recreation department put into it over the last few months!