'Kinston Christmas' to include contests, lights and a parade

'Kinston Christmas' to include contests, lights and a parade

The Pride of Kinston is bringing more festivities to holidays in downtown with A Kinston Christmas, a tourism-based economic development endeavor that will include lights in Pearson Park and a holiday window display contest.

Modeling this endeavor on a similar event in Natchitoches, La, Pride Executive Director Leon Steele believes A Kinston Christmas will experience even greater success due to Kinston’s comparatively larger size and proximity to bigger cities.

“It is a joyous holiday season when people are coming to Eastern North Carolina to visit relatives and friends,” Steele said. “What a great evening it would be to bring guests to downtown Kinston to enjoy these free events and experience downtown Kinston and our great restaurants and shops.”

To kickstart the event, Pride raised more than $35,000 through a grassroots social media campaign which received donations ranging from $5 to $5,000.

“The grassroots effort sidestepped the usual go-to wells for funding,” Steele said. “Its success indicated that our citizens are enthusiastic about their Pride of Kinston organization, plus it gave everyone the opportunity to take ownership through personal investments in this project because they recognized the importance of its economic impact potential for Kinston, Lenoir County and the region.”

Pride also received a $10,000 grant from the Kinston-Lenoir County Tourism Development Authority to market the event.

As part of A Kinston Christmas, there will be a Christmas window contest open to all businesses and organizations within the Municipal Services District.

Steele said he hopes to make downtown Kinston look like Christmas with merchant windows decorated and lit for Christmas in order to facilitate holiday shopping downtown.

There is no charge to participate; merchants can sign up online and decorate their window display before Nov. 17 at 6 p.m., when judging will take place. Winners will be announced that same night, along with a tree-lighting ceremony in Pearson Park.

“Display windows are a merchant’s billboards,” Steele said. “The more enticing they are, the more likely someone is to pop in and do business.”

Some of the businesses already registered to participate include Mother Earth, Middle Grounds Coffeehouse, Just Add Salt, Whiskey Pig Craft Butchery and Deli and Potter Photography, said Seraphim Smith, marketing and communications director for Pride.

“We decorate every year, so hopefully this year will be no different. This year the only difference is there’s an actual competition,” Middle Grounds owner Jessy Dawson said. “I hope that it draws people down to see the lights and be a part of the festivity. The more people that we hold accountable to our town the more it can thrive and grow.”

Whiskey Pig Craft Butchery plans to decorate one of their windows with a religious theme and the other with an image of Christmas on the farm, said owner Genell Pridgen.

Pride is also encouraging merchants to extend their hours for the seven Sundays of A Kinston Christmas — Nov. 17 to Dec. 29 — to take advantage of increased traffic in the area. It will promote participating businesses during the period.

“We hope that it’ll draw people in, particularly with us being open now on Friday and Saturday nights and not just at lunch,” Pridgen said. “We hope it’ll be a community and family-based atmosphere.”

Other activities for A Kinston Christmas include a Christmas parade on Saturday, Dec. 8. Parade entrants can sign up and pay their entry fee at downtownkinston.com or at the Kinston Enterprise Center, located at 327 N. Queen St.

“This year, A Kinston Christmas will be a symbol of hope and resilience for those who are rebuilding their lives as a result of the recent storms,” Steele said.

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