‘WCU Night’ to open Dillsboro festival on Dec. 7

WCU students will have the opportunity to visit Dillsboro businesses and sample holiday treats on WCU Night of the Dillsboro Lights and Luminaries event.

WCU students will have the opportunity to visit Dillsboro businesses and sample holiday treats on WCU Night of the Dillsboro Lights and Luminaries event.

Western Carolina University’s new provost, Dillsboro resident Angi Brenton, will be joined by members of her family to kick off the 29th annual Dillsboro Lights and Luminaries at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, as they take the evening’s first horse-drawn carriage ride through the town.

The opening night of the luminary festival has been designated WCU Night. Organizers have planned several special and free activities for families throughout the evening.

Susan Belcher, wife of WCU Chancellor David Belcher, will lead a “Sing-along with Susan” in the old Front Street Café courtyard. Children of all ages are invited to join in singing some of the most popular holiday tunes from 5:45 to 6:15 p.m. in a casual and informal setting. “We invite everyone in the community to join us for WCU Night,” Mrs. Belcher said. “It’s not just for WCU. It’s for everybody.”

The WCU Early Music Ensemble, dressed in Renaissance attire and performing a cappella style under the direction of Michael Lancaster, associate professor and director of choral activities at WCU, will sing at the Jarrett House from 6:15 to 7 p.m. Other local musicians will be performing in the town’s shops throughout the evening.

The Jackson County-based business Whee Make Snow had been scheduled to provide real snow at the event in which families could play, but because of unseasonably warm weather conditions, the snow-making has been canceled.  Whee Make Snow is an enterprise launched by Preston Jacobsen, who also operates the Local Yokel Weather forecasting service.

Claymates, a paint-your-own-pottery experience, will provide a “Craft Corner” with free activities, including paint-your-own ornament and face painting. Other activities will be offered at discounted prices.

Western Carolina faculty, staff and students who show their Cat Cards will receive special discounts in many of the shops and will have the opportunity to enter in a raffle drawing for a grand prize of gift certificates donated by the merchants totaling more than $500, and a runner-up prize of gift certificates that total $250. “The lucky winner might be able to take care of everyone on his or her Christmas list,” said John Miele, a member of the Dillsboro/WCU Partnership Committee member and co-owner of the Golden Carp. Santa and Mrs. Claus will draw the winning names at 9 p.m. at Town Hall.

Free round-trip shuttle transportation from A.K. Hinds University Center will begin at 5 p.m. on Dec. 7, running every half hour until 7:30. Shuttles will return to WCU from Dillsboro beginning at 7 p.m., running every half hour until 9:30 p.m. Shuttle transportation is sponsored by WCU’s Student Government Association. The shuttle is open to all WCU faculty, staff, students and their families and reservations are required. To reserve seats on the shuttle, contact Kathryn Giles, a senior communication major and art minor at WCU, at klgiles@gmail.com by Monday, Dec. 3. Free parking in Dillsboro also will be available.

Now in its 29th year, the Dillsboro Lights and Luminaries event is always held the first two Friday and Saturday nights in December and runs from dusk to 9 p.m. The historic Jackson County village is transformed with more than 2,500 luminaries and white lights on the shops. As the sun sets, carolers and local musicians fill the air with the sounds of the season and children whisper their wishes into Santa’s ear at Town Hall. The shop owners remain open after hours to serve homemade holiday treats along with warm apple cider and hot cocoa while shoppers look for just the right gift. Attendees also will have the chance to experience a horse-drawn carriage ride.

WCU Night is part of the Dillsboro/WCU Partnership, a university-wide effort designed to match WCU expertise and support with Dillsboro’s challenges and opportunities. Initiated in 2009 at the request of Dillsboro leaders seeking assistance in difficult economic times, the project involves dozens of WCU faculty and staff and hundreds of students across numerous disciplines.

For more information about WCU Night in downtown Dillsboro, visit http://www.facebook.com/DillsboroLuminaries or contact Betty Farmer, special assistant to the chancellor for Dillsboro, at 828-227-3804 or at bfarmer@wcu.edu.