“I was expecting it to be a little bit bigger,” said Jacksonville Mayor Johnny Smith. “We just wish the rain would have held out a little bit.”
People huddled under umbrellas and sipped hot cocoa from foam cups in the dark. The Jacksonville Community Choir used book lights to illuminate sheets of music. And the Kitty Stone singers wore Santa hats and performed for the crowd before the lights came on.
As soon as the singing stopped, people joined in a New Year’s Eve-style countdown that led up to the lighting — and then to excited gasps from the crowd. Surrounding the square, 16 white snowflake frames encircled street light globes like halos and four clusters of colorful lights strung in the shape of Christmas trees were glowing.
“We’re glad everybody stuck it out in the rain,” said David Duckett, who came out to the event with his family to hear his daughter Brooklynn Duckett sing.
Like Duckett, each of the people who spoke to a reporter at the event said they were there to see a friend or family member who was performing. That was the case for Don and Anita Hamm, who came out to hear their granddaughter sing.
“It’s beautiful right now,” Don Hamm said as the Calhoun County Community Band played “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” in the background. “Even if it is raining.”
At least one performance, that by the Kitty Stone band, was cancelled because organizers feared the rain would harm the band members’ instruments. The cancellation didn’t keep sixth-grade flute player Alex Billups and her grandmother Gwen Hicks from hanging around for the entire event.
“I was disappointed,” Hicks said. “But I understand.”
The wet weather also prompted some performers to cut their show short. By 6:30 p.m. the event ended and the crowds quickly dispersed.
The abbreviated performance was OK with at least one attendee.
“It was cold and now we can go home, yay,” said Brody Duckett, an elementary school student who also said he was excited to see the lights.
Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LGaddy_Star.