Helena holds annual Christmas tree lighting event with hundreds in attendance

Published 4:02 pm Tuesday, December 5, 2023

By DONALD MOTTERN | Staff Writer

HELENA – Helena welcomed in the Christmas season with another successful iteration of their Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Friday, Dec. 1.

With rain originally in the forecast for the night’s events, clouds held firm and temperatures warmed from the cold of the previous days as hundreds of visitors and residents of Helena arrived in Old Town to celebrate and welcome in the Christmas season.

Vendors lined every lot and crevice of Old Town’s Main Street and local businesses remained open as the headline event at the Helena Welcome Center Caboose got underway. The main musical act of the evening were the Martini Shakers, who entertained throughout the night with songs of rockabilly stylings which included songs from artists such as Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole, Carl Perkins and a few of their own creation.

As the night continued, city officials took to the stage to recognize the work that had gone into the evening’s celebration.

“I just want to thank you all for coming out tonight,” said Rebeckah Henderson, chairperson of the Helena Beautification Board. “I want to welcome our City Council and state reps. (Hulsey, Bedsole and Paschal). I just want to thank you guys for allowing us to have this great event. You guys give us the support that we need to have things like this in Helena—this is my favorite night of the year. I also want to thank my Beautification Board who I could not have done any of this without. We have worked tirelessly since the summer to put this event on and they have done such a great job. I am really proud of them.”

Additionally, the organizers of the Buck Creek Festival also took the opportunity to use the event as the venue for their presentation of donations made available by the funds raised by the festival.

“The biggest goal we had was to give back to the community—not only put on a festival that the community can enjoy but also give back,” President of Buck Creek Festival JoAnna Harmon said. “We’re excited because this is our first year where we get to do that. We’re so thankful to the Beautification Board for allowing us to use this venue to make these announcements.”

In all, the Buck Creek Festival organizers donated the following:

  • The Helena Belles were presented with $500
  • The Helena Farmers Market was presented with $500
  • Cahaba River Keepers were presented with $1,000
  • The Garcia Family was presented with $2,000
  • The Helena Beautification Board was presented with $1,000

Mayor of Helena, Brian Puckett, also spoke to the gathered crowd about the community, the importance of the event and thanked everyone involved in the organization of the event.

“Thank you all for being here,” Puckett said. “I look out at this crowd and everyone up and down Old Town and I think—six years ago was the first time we lit a tree as a city in many years. To see it come to what it is now is great. We could not do it without the Beautification Board. All of those volunteers put in hours and hours of work to make this happen. Without them, this could not be a true magical holiday event like we enjoy every single year.”

Following these statements and an invocation led by Councilmember Chris VanCleave, the Helena High School Choir, with many dressed in Christmas costumes, sang for the crowd. In the leadup to the tree lighting, they sang “We Three Kings” and “Carol of the Bells” to a noticeably silent crowd that was attentively captured in the festive moment.

The performance was followed by the Dance Et Cetera dance team that performed a routine to the theme from “Christmas Vacation” complete with eye-high kicks.

At the conclusion of those performances, retired Helena fire chief and this year’s marshall of the Helena Christmas Parade, Pete Valenti, and his wife Marie, took to the stage with other city officials and the Martini Shakers to light Helena’s Christmas tree. The tree, which towers over the Helena Welcome Center, brightly illuminated the once dim event area and bathed it in a festive yellow light that was visible on the hundreds of faces of those in attendance.

“The tree lighting ceremony was almost magical,” Council President Alice Lobell said. “So many people came out to enjoy the entertainment and the Christmas market while waiting for the official lighting of the tree. The scene was almost like a Hallmark movie.”

Immediately after the lighting, the Martini Shakers began a rendition of “The Christmas Song” complete with lead singer Jory Heindel’s playing of a saxophone.

Visitors were eagerly encouraged to stay passed the tree lighting to visit with shops, food trucks and local vendors that lined the street of old town and were encouraged to “shop until they dropped” into the night.