By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • The Grinch was getting up to trouble behind the backs of Santa and Mrs. Claus beside the newly lit Christmas tree in downtown Raeford, but sharp-eyed children spotted him as he tried to sneak away.
It turned out he had a heart after all as the Santa-suited, fuzzy green Grinch knelt down to offer candy canes to the kids. Ivy and Willa Johnson were a little uncertain at first, but with some encouragement they got their candy.
The character from Dr. Seuss’ “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” was a new addition to the fun Friday night as hundreds of people turned out to celebrate the fifth annual Hometown Christmas. The seasonal event started out with Mayor John K. McNeill, and Charles Tapp of the Raeford-Hoke Chamber of Commerce lighting up the Christmas tree at Freedom Park. The rest of downtown was already shining with strings of lights as businesses decorated their storefronts on Main Street with bright displays.
After a year away from gatherings due to the pandemic, families got the chance to enjoy treats like cookies and hot cocoa while kids wrote letters to Santa. This year the event had red mailboxes set up to receive the Christmas wishes, with plans to deliver them to the post office for special delivery to the North Pole.
Inside Raeford City Hall, kids lined up to meet with Santa and Mrs. Claus to pass on their Christmas wishes. Among the many families who stopped by, Tierra Adams joined youngsters Kennedy Adams and London Finkley as they posed for a photo.
KasCie Page performed live just after the Christmas tree lighting. Bleachers set up offered seating for families to take a break and watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
Attendees at the event also got to hop on a hayride, pulled by a tractor, or a mini “North Pole Express” train draped in colorful lights. The hayride took guests just down the road to view the decorations and stop at the Raeford-Hoke Museum on East Central Avenue.
The event is free to the public, with vendors setting up tables to give away goodies, snacks and information about their business or organization. Hoke County Schools offered a table giving away free children’s books. Others provided popcorn, cocoa, cookies and more.
Businesses like Raeford Hardware and Cheap Shots on Main kept their doors open for customers to check out what downtown has to offer. Hometown Christmas, sponsored by the Raeford-Hoke Chamber of Commerce and partnering organizations, got its start in 2015 as a way to encourage people to come to downtown Raeford and enjoy a fun, family-friendly night out while supporting local business.
“Everything turned out really well. The Chamber of Commerce would like to thank the City, County, vendors, Manna Church volunteers, SandHoke volunteers, Hoke County Schools, Police Department, Sheriff’s Department, and everyone who came out,” Chamber Director Liz McNeill said this week. “The Grinch and all of our Santas and Mrs. Claus were fabulous. We’d also like to thank all of the downtown businesses who stayed open and supported this event. There are so many other people and groups who need to be thanked as well.”
For more information about local Chamber events visit the Raeford-Hoke Chamber of Commerce on Facebook, or call (910) 875-5929.