The lighting of Children’s Garden Christmas and Kids’ Walk at Edisto Memorial Gardens on the Monday evening before Thanksgiving became part of the holiday tradition surrounding Orangeburg’s now-famous yuletide décor.
But this year, for the 25th edition of the garden lights, the city did things a little differently, consolidating the lighting celebration for downtown and the gardens into one big event on Sunday. You can read about it and see photos on today’s Page A1 and at TheTandD.com.
So if you decide to visit Orangeburg tonight for the lights, you won’t be disappointed. They are already shining brightly from 6 to 10 nightly and will be Orangeburg’s Christmas gift to all through Jan. 3.
Twenty-five years after the lights first came on in 1993, it’s hard to imagine a Christmas without them.
"Orangeburg residents and visitors by the thousands drove through the gardens during the holidays, enjoying the rocking horse, the jack-in-the-box, lighted skaters and snowmen. It was all part of some 'Happy Holidays,' as the welcoming display proclaimed." Multiply our words after the first year of Children's Garden Christmas 25 times and you have Orangeburg's feeling in 2017 about what has become a regional and state attraction.
It was two years before the lighting in 1993 that officials with Orangeburg's garden clubs went to City Council with $10,000 in hand and the idea of lighting trees in the gardens.
Through the garden clubs' work with the city and its Parks and Recreation Department, the decorations evolved into a plan for creating a half-mile drive-through Christmas display.
Local accommodations tax revenue and a grant obtained via the Orangeburg County Legislative Delegation helped fund creation of the master plan and decorations. The lights and displays cost $30,000, with the underground wiring costing another $16,000.
The combined efforts of the City of Orangeburg, the Department of Public Utilities, the Orangeburg Council of Garden Clubs and the Orangeburg County Legislative Delegation paid off in bringing a wintertime dimension to Orangeburg's showpiece Edisto Memorial Gardens.
After year one, which featured only a fraction of today's displays, the show got its name when the Children's Garden Christmas lighted sign greeted visitors and the "Happy Holidays" moved to a spot at the end of the ride through the gardens. A Nativity was added through local sponsorships.
With popularity came expectation. Children and adults alike have looked forward annually to the promised additions. Children's Garden Christmas hasn't disappointed.
In the fourth year, the most ambitious expansion added the pedestrian dimension. Kids' Walk is a trail along which interactive displays bring the lights to life for children — and adults.
More recent additions expanded the light show to a major presence on the grounds of the Orangeburg Fine Arts Center and into Centennial Park. And it's all still admission-free.
Back in the same editorial after the 1993 inauguration of the garden lights, we quoted Margaret Williams, whose husband Sen. Marshall B. Williams died during the holiday season in 1995. The senator and Mrs. Williams were involved in mobilizing the support and funding necessary to make the lights of Edisto Memorial Gardens a reality.
"Christmas has come and gone and a new year has begun, and already I miss the beautiful lights and displays in the Children's Garden Christmas," Mrs. Williams said. "If the other citizens enjoyed them half as much as I did, the Orangeburg garden clubs, the city and our Orangeburg delegation have been richly rewarded. … To each, I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart."
With the lights on for the 25th year, it's time to say "thank you" again.