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Albany area gets ready for holiday season

The lights of the Christmas season are starting to shine in Southwest Georgia

A Christmas light display decorates the side of the WG&L Commission building on Pine Avenue for the holiday season. (File photo)

A Christmas light display decorates the side of the WG&L Commission building on Pine Avenue for the holiday season. (File photo)

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Santa and Mrs. Claus wave to the crowd as they ride on their float in the Albany Celebration of Lights parade. (File photo)

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The Festival of Lights show continues every evening through Dec. 29 Admission is $15 per vehicle. (File photo)

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Murphy Dance Studio dancers perform during the 2012 Celebration of Lights Christmas parade in Albany. (File photo)

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Christmas in Lights Drive-Thru Display at Flowers Foods will be featured in Thomasville Nov. 29 - Dec. 31. (Special photo)

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Santa Claus is coming to town via the North Pole Express on Dec. 19-20 from 5 p.m. -8 p.m. at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. (Special photo)

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Thomasville will host a Victorian Christmas: Thurs., Dec. 12 and Fri., Dec. 13 from 6 - 10 p.m.. (Special photo)

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Features at Chehaw’s Festival of Lights include the Twelve Days of Christmas. (File photo)

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A troop of illuminated monkeys swing through the trees in The Monkey Forest as part of Chehaw’s Festival of Lights display. (File photo)

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Thronateeska’s “Season of Light” presentation explores the possible astronomical meanings behind seasonal traditions, including the “Star over Bethlehem.” (Special photo)

It’s beginning to look a lot like a southern Christmas, from the holly and the ivy on streetlights to Santa Claus sightings. This year, Albany and the surrounding area have a plethora of events to help ring in the holiday spirit. So relax, grab a mug of hot cocoa, and decide what events grab your interest. From parades and festivals to ice skating, foot races and train rides, there is something for everyone.

Metro Albany

Festival of Lights: Come celebrate a holiday tradition with Chehaw’s Festival of Lights. During the holiday season the park is decorated throughout with brilliant light displays at every turn. Take a car ride through the park or a magical train ride on the Wiregrass Express to view all the spectacular lights. Admission is $15 per vehicle. ($12 for Chehaw Passport Members). Train rides are $3; the train will run every 30 minutes until the last person gets a chance to ride.

Festival of Lights Dates: December 6-8, 11-24, 26-29. Santa Claus Dates: December 13-14, 18-23 from 6 - 9 p.m.

Mayors’ Christmas Motorcade: Since 1958, cities across Georgia have brought the joy of the holidays to the patients at Georgia’s regional mental health and mental retardation hospitals through the Mayors’ Christmas Motorcade, a program of the Georgia Municipal Association. Donations of new, unwrapped items will be accepted through Dec. 3 at the following locations: Albany Recreation and Parks office at 1301 N. Monroe St. (in Tift Park); Mayor’s office at 222 Pine, Suite 580 (Government Center); Engineering Department office at 240 Pine, Suite 200 (Central Square Building). For more information, call 430-5222.

Make A Wish Come True with a Letter to Santa: Help make Christmas special for a child spending the holidays at The Bridge or Liberty House. Just pick up a letter to Santa from the Albany Recreation and Parks office through Dec. 6 (or until all the letters are taken). Purchase items from the child’s wish list. Return the gifts, along with the letter to Santa, to the ARPD office by Dec. 13. Gifts do not have to be wrapped. For further information, please contact Gloria Bridges at (229) 430-5242 or Kristin Caso at (229) 430-5222.

Santa Claus at Thronateeska: Nov. 29, Thronateeska Heritage Center. Santa takes a break from the North Pole to visit with children from noon – 2 p.m.

Santas Around the World: Nov. 29 – Jan. 4, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Thronateeska Heritage Center Science Museum. View over 2,500 figurines, sculptures, paintings and crafted forms of Kris Kringle. For more information, call (229) 432-6955.

Season of Light: Thronateeska Planetarium. This presentation traces the history and development of many of the world’s most endearing holiday customs. The program also explores the possible astronomical meanings behind seasonal traditions, including the “Star over Bethlehem.” Admission is $3.50. Hours of operation coincide with the Science Museum; show times are 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Santa at The Albany Mall: Santa will be at Albany Mall for visits and photos through Christmas Eve at 6 p.m. His photo set and Holiday Express Train ride are located in the JC Penney wing just outside of Belk. For more information, visit www.albany-mall.com.

World Ballet: “Nutcracker,” a diversity celebration. Sat., Nov. 30 at 2:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m., Darton Theatre; general admission is $15.

Merry Fishmas: Dec. 1, 15 and 18, 2 -4 p.m., Flint RiverQuarium. Bring the whole family and join the fun with arts and crafts, storytelling, live animal presentations and more for children ages 5 and up. Free with RiverQuarium membership or with regular admission.

Nuncrackers: Theatre Albany presents a Nunsense Christmas Musical based on the book by Dan Goggin. Showtimes are Dec. 5, 6, 12, 13, 14 at 8 p.m.; Dec. 8 and 15 at 2:30 p.m.

Spirit of Christmas Parade and Festival: Leesburg, Dec. 7, 10 a.m. Reigning Miss Georgia and Leesburg native Carly Mathis will serve as this year’s Grand Marshal. The event will be held in downtown Leesburg, followed by festivities until 2 p.m., featuring vendors, food, and entertainment. For more information, call (229) 759-2422.

Celebration of Lights Christmas Parade: Sat., Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. A pre-parade live show begins at 5:00 p.m. in the 200 blocks of Pine and Broad Avenue; look for the Toys for Tots booth and bring an unwrapped toy or make a donation! The city’s official Christmas tree will be lit in loving memory of Mr. Joe Corson. Applications for floats accepted until December 2nd. For more information, call (229) 883-8330.

Jingle Bell Jog: Dec. 7 at 8 a.m. at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital’s HealthWorks, 311 W. Third Ave. The Jingle Bell Jog 10K starts at 8 a.m., the toddler trot starts at 8:30 a.m., the 1-mile walk starts at 9:15 a.m. and the 5K starts at 9:30 a.m. Registration fees through Dec. 6 are $25; $30 on race day. Persons interested in participating can register online at www.supportphoebe.org or call 229-312-4483 for more information.

Albany Symphony Orchestra: “Celtic Holiday Celebration with Mithril,” Sat., Dec. 7, 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Darton Theater. Pre-concert notes at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $25-$35 for adults and $10 for students with ID. For more information or reservations: 229-430-8933 or www.albanysymphony.org.

A Triumphant Christmas: Sun. Dec. 8, 7:30 p.m., St. Teresa’s Catholic Church, 417 Edgewood Lane. The Albany State University Chorale and Chamber Singers present a Christmas concert featuring “The Christmas Cantata” by Daniel Pinkham, music by Palestrina for chorus and brass, and traditional music for the holiday season. Admission is free; for more information, call (229) 430-4849.

Lights of Love Ceremony: Mon., Dec. 9, at 7 p.m. Cancer survivor Patsy Martin has been chosen as this year’s tree lighter. The ceremony will include special music by Dr. Leroy Bynum. For each donation of at least $25 in honor or memory of a loved one or friend, an acknowledgement card will be sent to them or a designated person. Donations can be made online at www.supportphoebe.org/lightsoflove. Checks may be made payable to Phoebe Foundation/Lights of Love, and mailed to Phoebe Foundation/Lights of Love, PO Box 3770, Albany, GA 31706. For more information call, (229) 312-4483.

Jingle Bell Jam: Dec. 14, 6 p.m. – 11:55 p.m. Austin’s Firegrill & Oyster Bar, 2817 Old Dawson Road. Concerts to raise money for the Darton State College Foundation Legacy Fund.

AMA Movie Night: Thurs., Dec. 19; 7:30 p.m., Albany Museum of Art. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (remake version). Admission is $5 per person and includes popcorn, drink, and candy. Doors open at 7 p.m.; enjoy a walk through the galleries prior to the show. Note: This movie is rated PG for cartoon violence and some crude humor.

Carols and Communion: Sun., Dec. 22, 6 p.m. at Central Baptist Church, 1618 W. 3rd Ave.

Christmas with Grandparents Day: Mon., Dec. 23, 11 a.m. at Lockett Station Community Center. The Albany Recreation and Parks Department invites senior citizens age 50 and over to the Christmas with Grandparents. Tickets are $5 per person and may be purchased through December 17 at the ARPD office at 1301 N. Monroe St., Monday – Friday from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Tickets will not be sold at the door. For more information, contact Tee Taylor at (229) 430-5219 or the Recreation Administrative Office at (229) 430-5222.

Happening Nearby

The Giving Tree Donation Drop-Off for The Children’s Advocacy Center: Mon. through Fri., 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Georgia State Patrol Post 12, 4800 U.S. Highway 84 Bypass. All children receiving gifts from this project are from Thomas County and are victims of physical or sexual abuse, neglect, have witnessed a violent crime, or have a need. For children’s sizes, wish lists, and other information, contact Jackla Lawson at (229) 977-1639. Drop off items to Georgia State Patrol Post 12. If you would like to contribute monetarily, make donations payable to “The Tree House” at P.O. Box 2594, Thomasville, GA 31799. Your donation is tax deductible. Deadline for drop-off is Dec 6.

Wild Adventures: The Valdosta theme park has holiday activities for every member of the family, including an Elf’s Workshop Craft Station, a Holly Jolly Safari Party, A Living Nativity, and narrative of the Christmas Story. For more information, visit wwww.wildadventures.com.

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas: The Rylander Theatre and Sumter Players present this classic at The Rylander Theatre in Americus on Nov. 24, from 2:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Plains Christmas Parade: Nov. 30, 6-8 p.m. in Plains.

Christmas in Lights Drive-Thru Display at Flowers Foods: Nov. 29 - Dec. 31 from 6 - 10 p.m.; Flowers Foods, Inc., 1919 Flowers Circle, off U.S. Hwy. 19 S., Thomasville. Flowers Foods invites everyone to their annual Christmas In Lights on the grounds of the company’s corporate office. Two nativity scenes, a Victorian village, an animated train, Santa poised on an upstairs balcony and other scenes will be outlined in thousands of lights throughout the drive-through display. For more information, call (229) 226-9110.

Sam Shortline: Holiday train rides this year include the Plains Festival of Lights Excursion on Sat., Nov. 30, Rudolph’s Favorite on Sat. Dec. 7, Bells Over Plains Train Ride on Dec. 10 & 11, and Enchanted Evening on Sat. Dec. 13. For more information, reservations, and ride times, visit samshortline.com of call (229) 276-0755.

South Georgia Ballet Presents The Nutcracker: Join South Georgia Ballet Thanksgiving Weekend for their 16th annual performance of Tchaikovsky’s, The Nutcracker. This holiday classic will be performed Sat., Nov. 30th at 7:30 p.m. and Sun., Dec. 1st at 2:30 p.m. at the Thomasville Municipal Auditorium. For more information or tickets, please visit www.southgeorgiaballet.org or call (229) 228-9420.

Decorate Westville: Mon., Dec. 2. Learn how to make 19th century wreaths, swags, fruit boards and more, while decorating the village. Cookies and cider are provided for all volunteers. No charge for the event, but please register ahead of time by calling (888) 733-1850.

Thomasville Christmas Parade: Dec. 2, Broad Street, Downtown Thomasville, 6:30 p.m. For more information contact the YMCA at (229) 226-3446, or email info@ymca-thomasville.org.

Christmas in Camilla: Tues., Dec. 3rd, at 6:30 p.m., downtown Camilla.

Americus Christmas Parade: Thurs., Dec. 5, 7 -8 p.m. in downtown Americus.

Sylvester Christmas Parade: Thurs., Dec. 5 at 6 p.m. in downtown Sylvester.

Christmas on the River: Thurs., Dec. 5 at 6:30 p.m., Earle May Boat Basin, Bainbridge.

A Very Merry May-Haw Christmas: Dec. 5 and 6 at 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 7 at 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.; Dec. 8 at 2 p.m. Cotton Hall Theater in Colquitt. Admission is $15. For tickets, visit swampgravy.com or call (229) 758-5450.

Fitzgerald Christmas Parade: Thurs., Dec. 5, 6:30 p.m. in downtown Fitzgerald. For more information, call (229) 426-5033.

Jingle Jangle Disc Golf Tournament: Dec. 7 at 9:30 a.m., MacIntyre Park, 201 N. Mitchell St., Thomasville. For more information, contact Hands On Thomas County at (229) 226-5200, email info@handsonthomascounty.org, or visit www.handsonthomascounty.org.

Christmas at Historic Westville: Sat. Dec. 7, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Celebrate Christmas with a step back in time with hands-on crafts and Victorian Christmas activities and demonstrations. End the day with Father Christmas in the Lantern Lighting Procession and Christmas caroling.

Christmas Cookies and Carols: A Holiday Musical: Sat., Dec. 7th, 6:30 p.m. and Sun., Dec. 8th at 2:30 p.m. at the Camilla Depot. Tickets are $10 and are available at the Camilla Chamber. They will also be available at the door.

"It's A Wonderful Life: Live from WVL Radio Theatre:" Sat., Dec. 7th, 7 p.m., Howard Auditorum at at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. This event, part of the “ABAC Presents! Performing Arts Series,” features the artists of Immediate Theatre Project. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m.

The Winter Festival: Sat., Dec. 7, 3 - 10 p.m. in downtown Tallahassee. Jingle Bell run, vendors, children’s activities, arts and crafts, and a parade at 7:15. Ice skating also opens today and lasts through Jan. 5. For more information, call (850) 891-3866 or visit www.talgov.com.

Market Days: Dec. 7 & 8 at the North Florida Fairgrounds, Tallahassee. This premier arts and crafts show features everything from fine arts to charming stocking stuffers. For more information, visit www.marketdays.org of call (850) 575-8684.

Hometown Holiday Christmas Celebration and Parade: Tifton, Dec. 7 from 5 - 10 p.m. Step into the holiday season with the sweet sound of local entertainment. Concerts, a parade, great food, a tour of homes, kids play stations, dance performances and a headline act are all part of this lively downtown gala. Kids can have breakfast with Santa and enjoy free amusement rides. Enjoy shopping with your favorite downtown merchants. For more information, call (229) 391-3966 or visit www.downtowntifton.com.

Gingerbread House Workshop: Sat., Dec. 8, 10 a.m. at New Perry Hotel, Restaurant & Tavern, 800 Main St., Perry. Build your own gingerbread house; $25 per house. All proceeds are donated to the Methodist Children’s Home. Space is limited, so make you reservations today! For more information, call (478) 224-1000.

Victorian Village by Candlelight: Dec. 8, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. Tickets for this event are $15 per person and are now on sale at the Country Store. Tickets must be purchased in advance and will not be sold on the day of the event. Guests will get a taste of the community’s celebratory spirit as they stop in for a Christmas Eve visit in a Victorian-era village in South Georgia back when electricity was a luxury, humble gifts were made by hand, and Christmas Eve was spent cooking delicious treats on the open hearth of the fireplace. Guests will ride on train cars pulled by the 1917 Vulcan steam engine; farmhouse beef stew, cornbread, and hot apple cider will be available. For ticket information, contact the Country Store at (229) 391-5205.

Thomasville Music & Drama Troupe Christmas Show: Tues., Dec. 10; further information to be announced. Visit www.thomasvillemusicanddramatroupe.com for more information about TMDT.

Tree of Life Ceremony: Dec. 12, 6 p.m., Tift Regional Medical Center, Tifton.

Victorian Christmas: Thurs., Dec. 12 and Fri., Dec. 13 from 6 - 10 p.m., Downtown Thomasville. Both evenings feature the same great events! Take an unforgettable journey back in time to 1890’s when life was simple and true Christmas spirit reigned. Enjoy horse drawn carriages, strolling carolers, holiday shopping, dancers, musicians, museums, food and holiday delicacies. For more information, call (866) 577-3600.

Moultrie Christmas Parade: Fri., Dec. 13, 6 p.m., downtown Moultrie. For more information, call (229) 890-5455.

Christmas Extravaganza at the Barn: 1574 Hwy. 49 N. in Andersonville. Enjoy live entertainment; refreshments will be available in “The Feed Room.” Admission is a $5 donation at the door.

Fri., Dec. 13, 6-8 p.m., South Georgia Quartet featuring the Dove Brothers Quartet and the Dixie Echoes.

Sat., Dec. 14, 7-9 p.m., The Old Paths and the Dayspring Trio.

Wiregrass Christmas: Dec. 14 from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.

Poulan Christmas in the Park: Dec. 14 at 3 p.m. in Poulan. Christmas in the Park is a community wide celebration of the holiday season. Parade begins at 3 p.m. For more information, call (229) 776-4097.

The Grinch: Americus Dance Experience presents this Christmas tale at The Rylander Theatre in Americus. Shows are Dec. 14 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Wreaths Across America: Sat. Dec. 14. Sponsored wreaths will be laid on gravesites in national cemeteries across the country to remember and honor our military veterans. If you, your family, organization, or business is interested in sponsoring a 20” Frasier Fir wreath with a red velveteen bow, you can learn more about the program and sponsor wreaths online at www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.

Beginning December 1, wreaths and floral blankets no larger than 2 by 3 feet are permitted in the cemetery. Please contact your local florist to order an appropriate floral decoration. Wreaths should be brought to the grave site in person or delivered by a florist. To find the location of a specific grave, please visit gravelocator.cem.va.gov.

In December of 2014, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Andersonville Prison, we encourage the decoration of the Civil War prisoner graves, nearly 13,000, with wreaths. Please contact the park for more information on how to help with this ambitious goal.

Night of Joy with Jason Crabb: Mon., Dec. 16, 7 p.m., Thomasville Municipal Auditorium, 144 E. Jackson St. You’re invited to attend a Christmas concert with award-winning Christian artist Jason Crabb, hosted by Harvest America and Beyond Ministries, Inc. Tickets are available online at www.jasoncrabbchristmas.com or at Rayann’s Christian Bookstore, (229) 226-9253. Costs will vary upon options ordered.

Christmas on the Square: Thurs., Dec. 19 from 5 – 7 p.m.; Downtown Historic Square in Bainbridge. Let Christmas on the Square put you in the holiday spirit! Join the festivities for hayrides, hot cocoa, marshmallow roasts and singing by choirs. Downtown stores will be open for last-minute shopping.

North Pole Express: Dec. 19-20 from 5 p.m. -8 p.m. at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. Take a ride o the Museum’s 1917 Vulcan steam locomotive, listen to Mrs. Claus read holiday classic, “The Polar Express,” and visit with Santa Claus. Tickets are $6 per person and must be purchased in advance at the Country Store. Tickets will not be sold at the event. The North Pole Express will run in all kinds of weather. For more information, interested persons can contact the Museum at (229) 391-5205 or visit the web site at www.abac.edu/museum.

4th Annual Holiday Basketball Classic: Dec. 20-21 & 27-28: Tift County High School, Tifton.

Callaway Gardens

This holiday season marks the 22nd anniversary of Fantasy In Lights — named one of the “Top 10 Places to See Holiday Lights” by National Geographic Traveler — at Callaway Gardens. Fantasy in Lights features 8 million lights stretching more than five miles, creating 15 larger-than-life holiday scenes.

Visitors experience the light and sound extravaganza on the “Jolly Trolley” or by driving through the lighted scenes in their personal vehicle. The sparkling, animated displays include Snowflake Valley, a winter wonderland filled with enormous snowflakes and thousands of white lights; Magical Christmas Garden with a 24-foot wreath entrance; and Santa’s Workshop. Two “don’t miss” scenes are on Robin Lake Beach and are both narrated: ’Twas the Night Before Christmas and The Nativity.

Fantasy in Lights: Callaway Gardens, U.S. Hwy. 27, Pine Mountain, Georgia. Nov. 22 - December 30. Purchasing tickets in advance, meaning prior to the day of visit is strongly advised and provide discounted price. Advance ticket prices starting at $17 for adults and $8.50 for children, with children 5 and younger admitted for free. Tickets purchased on the same-day of visit are $28 for adults and $14 for children, and will be sold on a first-available basis.

Also at Callaway Gardens during the holiday season:

“Story Time with Mrs. Claus” is available every Saturday beginning Nov. 24 - Dec. 21, 2013. Sessions are at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Cost is $10 per person; Reservations are required. Ages 2 and younger are admitted for free but require a “free child’s ticket.”

Santa Claus will be available nightly for photos, 5:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m., through Dec. 24, though he may take a break during the evening. No admission or ticket is required to access the Christmas Village, which also features shopping and dining.