We've written often about the Orangeburg Christmas experience. But there is good reason again this morning, a week afer the lights were turned off for another year, to revisit the holiday season.
Jen Prince of Cordova writes, "On Christmas night, my family visited the Children's Garden Christmas and Kids' Walk at Edisto Memorial Gardens. It was truly amazing to both drive through the light display and walk through the Kids' Walk.
"While we were there, we saw a number of different families, and everyone seemed to be enjoying the display. Thank you to the City of Orangeburg for coordinating this event and to the sponsors who supported the display.
"I also want to say thank you to the men and women who worked on creating the displays. You gave the community a little bit of Christmas magic."
Indeed the city's Christmas decor is holiday magic appreciated by thousands. How the lights and displays came to be is a story all should know.
After the lights first came on in 1993, we wrote: "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."
Two years before the lighting, 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.
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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 "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, 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.
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 the late 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 put away until a 28th year when they will come on again before Thanksgiving, we thank Jen Prince for writing and join her in saying another thank you.