Katie Stewart ‘23

Staff Writer

The tree decoration contest is one of many Christmas in Davidson attractions. Photos by John Crawford ‘20. 

December 5th will mark the beginning of the 31st annual Christmas in Davidson, an event that is expected to draw 30,000 people, according to Town of Davidson Economic Development Manager Kim Fleming. Fleming also serves as a chief organizer for the event. While this year’s festivities has a number of events lined up — including classics such as horse-drawn carriage rides and a doggie fashion show — the event was not always this elaborate.

In a 1998 article for the Lake Norman Times, Irene Blackwell, one of the original committee members who began the event, shared, “we didn’t know where all the [commercial] development would take place, but we certainly knew it was coming” [1]. 

Blackwell added that, “[Davidson’s] community, where everybody knows everybody, is so valuable and rare,” and therefore the committee of local business owners “tried to think of ways to enrich the life of the town and to help out our merchants and give them a boost […] and the first big project we had was Christmas in Davidson.”

The event grew massively in the following years, and eventually the town began to help with its organization as well. Despite the growth of the town, Christmas in Davidson, retains a local flair, and helping small businesses remains a top priority for organizers. Fleming said, “We’ve had years where some businesses have said if they didn’t have [a good turnout in] Christmas in Davidson that makes the difference between them having a good year and having a bad year [financially].”

While the event emphasizes holiday shopping, it also offers numerous other festivities. Staples of the experience include a visit from Santa and an ugly Christmas sweater contest, but there are also a plethora of other attractions attendees can enjoy, such as storytime with Mrs. Claus at Allen Tate Realtors or fiber art crafts at Hearts on Fiber. As for new attractions, Fleming says that in addition to more trolleys people can use to get around, they have added “a giant snow globe that people can walk in and jump around [as well as] new food vendors.”

With an event of this size, planning begins early August, something businesses who participate know very well. “It is so interesting to me that people who have been participating in Christmas in Davidson for years know [to get in all of their paperwork by] August 1st […] you wouldn’t think you’d be thinking of Christmas at that time,” Fleming added. By mid-October, all vendors and attractions are confirmed, and from that point on, planning focuses on staffing and coordinating with businesses that are sponsoring and participating in the event.

The months of hard work pay off, according to students, and the event radiates the warmth and comfort of the small town Blackwell wanted to maintain three decades ago. “I feel like in cities people don’t interact with each other, they just stop by the store and buy stuff and then go. Here people will actually interact with each other, and when they see people around they recognize each other and say ‘hi’ and chat. It’s like Christmas of the whole town and people of the town are family,” said Lidan Zhang ‘21.

As for what event you should prioritize attending, opinions vary. 

“[My favorite is] the Christmas tree decorating contest,” said Mary Kate Gallagher ‘21. Adding, “I just like to watch it.”

For Zhang, she says she “likes the artistic shops where they sell pottery […] and the hot chocolate the stores will offer.”

Finally, for Fleming it is the classic arrival of Santa. “I always love when Santa arrives and the mayor lights the Christmas tree. It’s the start of the whole event and everyone’s pretty excited about it and it’s a great time when you get to see your neighbors and the businesses and everyone’s just in a good mood,” she said.

Christmas at Davidson will be held December 5th-7th from 6:00-9:00 p.m and is sure to bring holiday fun to those of all ages. 

[1] Alghary, Becky. “If it’s December, it’s time for Christmas in Davidson.” Lake Norman Times, 1998. Local – Davidson, Town of – Christmas Davidsoniana file. Davidson College Archives, Davidson College, NC.