Tree lighting event joyful despite attendance decline

By Connie Nolen / Staff Writer

Pelham’s 2019 Christmas Tree Lighting featured fascinating performances. The event differed from past Pelham Tree Lightings. Pelham’s ceremony is vastly changed since its 1991 beginnings.  Comments about this year’s event recalled earlier Tree Lightings.

“I remember one of [Pelham’s] first Christmas Tree Lighting ceremonies…outside in front of City Hall. It was magical when the lights [on the tree] were lit. Valley Elementary students sang…,” Jody Dickens commented on Facebook.

Outdoor tree lightings at Pelham City Hall continued until 1997 when Pelham’s Civic Complex opened. In “Pelham City News” September 1997 Mayor Bobby Hayes announced the ceremony’s new location.

“Plans are currently underway for our annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony… on Dec. 2 in our new Pelham Civic Complex,” said Hayes, promising a “spectacular event.” More than 2500 attended that first Pelham Civic Complex Tree Lighting in ‘97.

Through the years, Pelham’s Tree Lighting featured many school groups including PHS Ambassadors and culinary along with choirs and bands from all Pelham schools. Pelham First Baptist’s Handbell Choir, along with ice hockey teams and figure skaters entertained large crowds.

Pelham’s 2019 ceremony featured a Community Choir representing many area church choirs. While the combined voices of the group were magical, the featured soloists were also amazing. The tiniest ice skaters were as adorable as the older skaters were skilled and creative.  An inspired message followed.

As lovely as the event was, estimates of attendees were fewer than 300. The lack of participating schoolchildren was palpable. The PHS Culinary group served delicious cookies and PHS Broadcast students searched for interesting footage. Santa seemed lonely with so few children visiting.

Coordinating school groups and contacting teachers is difficult. Once a highway town lacking inclusive cohesiveness, Pelham created community through coming together.

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success,” said Henry Ford.

Working together creates a safe haven for Pelham’s children. Volunteers have offered to coordinate bringing schools back to the 2020 Tree Lighting. The Pelham Community prioritizes and shows up for its children. Only with community involvement will Pelham—and its children—prosper.