The Thanksgiving turkeys have yet to hit the table, but Columbia has already kicked off the Christmas season.
The 34th Vista Lights attracted thousands of people to the Gervais Street area Thursday night, with more than 60 galleries, shops, and restaurants showing the holiday spirit with decorations, sales and other treats.
"This is easily the most enjoyable event we have all year,” said Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin. "Vista Lights is so exciting. I love coming out here and seeing people who say 'I come every year' and then meeting people who say 'This is my first year. This is amazing.'"
Groups representing Carolina Ballet, the Southern Strutt, Columbia City Jazz, Carolina Show Choir Company, Columbia City Ballet, Midlands Art Conservatory, Crayton Middle School, Palmetto Performing Arts and Lexington Youth Ballet performed on the main stage near Lincoln Street leading up to the tree lighting ceremony, presided over by Benjamin and Columbia Councilman Ed McDowell.
After the tree lighting, Prettier than Matt and the Soda City Brass Band entertained the crowd. A special Kids Zone on Lincoln Street sponsored by Edventure, Richland Library, Midlands Media Group, and Columbia Metropolitan Airport offered activities including face painting, balloon art, reindeer snacks, a giant snow globe and a chance to meet Santa. Guests of all ages were able to toast marshmallows over open fires on Gervais.
"This is a collection of people from all across not just Columbia but all across the Midlands who enjoy this most special time of year, being thankful, thankful for the sacrifice of Jesus the Christ,” Benjamin said.