Friday night to offer lots of options

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Christmas on the Rails and Shop by Candlelight is poised to be the biggest and best one yet, according to Picayune’s Public Wors Director Eric Morris. The festival will be held Friday in downtown Picayune and starts at 5 p.m. with Santa and Mrs. Claus at Jack Read Park.

Morris, who led the organization of the route says there are a number of new points of interest this year.

“You get to see eight life-size Star Wars characters milling around the street, a phenomenal Christmas village that’s been set up next to Larry’s Dry Cleaners, you get to take a picture with the Grinch and there’s going to be a cool backdrop that he sits in and that is next to one of the two free food service points where you can get Christmas cookies, finger sandwiches, punch, sweet tea and hot chocolate,” Morris said. “You can catch the hay ride from the west side to the east side where they will drop you off at the depot with a second food service point and you catch another ride to the end of East Canal Street.”

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Morris said that there is no question that Santa is the main attraction. However, another point of interest is the little red wagon, it’s a huge draw, said Beebe. The red wagon is a truck-size version of the iconic Radio Flyer wagon.

Beth Lenoir, Greater Picayune Area Chamber of Commerce board president, has been instrumental in bringing the Sounds of the Season Christmas Choirs to East Canal Street. Morris said he has been calling it “Music Row.”

Lenoir got seven choirs from different schools and churches to participate to sing in front of First National Bank.

“Each choir will line up individually with accompanists and their choir director will direct three songs each, but then at the end, all the choirs will come together and sing ‘Joy to the World,’ ‘Silent Night,’ and the national anthem and that will close out the evening,” Lenoir said.

When Picayune City Manager Jim Luke assumed his current role almost five years ago, he wanted to organize a festival, Luke said.

“The train depot has been very important to the city of Picayune, so I thought we would have it there and call it Christmas on the Rails,” Luke said.

The first year Luke said they had food and Santa Claus in a sleigh all centered around the train depot, and every year since the first year, the festival has been growing in attendance and radius, he said.

“Now, when you come to Christmas on the Rails, it’s not only at the train depot, it’s going to be at Jack Read Park, City Hall, downtown historic district and it’s just growing and growing. The first year it started out with a few hundred, now we’re getting into the thousands,” Luke said.

Initially, Christmas on the Rails and Shop by Candlelight were two different, unassociated events that would take place on the same day, but Luke and Beebe decided to come together as a team. The people from Christmas on the Rails were encouraged to take part in Shop by Candlelight and it yielded great results for the local businesses. Luke said afterward he went to each local business and they said their sales had never been better.

Luke also said it is a great opportunity for people to enjoy themselves since many activities are free.

“Rides are free, the food, hot chocolate and things are free, candy canes are free, bells are free. It’s really turned into to one of south Mississippi’s most festive events. People are coming from as far away as Jackson,” Luke said.