As Orangeburg’s fame for its Christmas beauty has spread, lighting up on the weekend before Thanksgiving has become a tradition. It is the city’s present to people looking to see the displays while home in November.

Children’s Garden Christmas in Edisto Memorial Gardens and its million llights have become in 26 seasons a special part of Orangeburg’s Christmas. In its 27th year in 2019, it’s the best no-admission-fee experience with lights and decor that you will find anywhere.

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.

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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.

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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 gardens.

After year one, which featured a fraction of today’s displays, the show got its name when the Children’s Garden Christmas lighted sign greeted visitors. 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. Sometime it’s hard to tell whether young or old is most fond of the show.

Other additions expanded the light show to a major presence on the grounds of the Orangeburg Fine Arts Center, into Centennial Park and along the Edisto River. And it’s all still admission-free.

Two leaders who helped make it happen are of special note. Veteran Sen. Marshall B. Williams died in December 1995. Without his efforts -- and those of his late wife Margaret Williams -- funding for the project likely would not have been.

And this will be the 19th Christmas since the March 2001 death of Orangeburg Mayor Martin Cheatham. The late mayor appreciated Edisto Gardens as much as anyone and did much to continue improvements, including Children’s Garden Christmas.

To them and others, Orangeburg says “thank you.”

Children’s Garden Christmas and the interactive Kids’ Walk get rave reviews. They are and should be great sources of pride for Orangeburg and its people.

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