By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
Again this year, the Cherokee Indian Fairgrounds will be decorated in tinsel and lights. Enjoy a winter wonderland with light tunnels guiding guests to each of the Cherokee legend sculptures that were custom-made for Cherokee and for this event.
The centerpieces will be the uniquely Cherokee legend sculptures, including a mountaintop clan feature (24 feet in height) and depictions of Cherokee legends like “How the Bear Lost His Tail”. These sculptures are professional renderings with sharp detail. There will also be a life-sized Nativity scene and a 40-foot, fully lit Christmas tree. There is no admission fee to enter the grounds and enjoy the walking tour of the Lights and Legends sculptures and displays.
A big hit at last year’s event, the ice-skating rink, will be returning. It is a synthetic 40’ by 80’ rink that does not require freezing water and can be skated upon regardless of weather conditions. Adults and children that skated at the event last year said that they had fun and enjoyed their experience on the synthetic “ice”. Thirty-minute sessions are $5. The Fairgrounds will have skates available at no additional charge. A signed liability release form will be required for skating and the form will be available at the rink.
Santa and his helpers will be back this year so families will have an opportunity to get a picture with Santa (in a nice sleigh and holiday background). For $5, individuals will receive a CD containing one photo with Santa. Santa will be available for pictures at the event through Saturday, Dec. 19.
The EBCI Commerce Department has made several changes to make the event more “user-friendly”. There is no admission fee to enter the Fairgrounds and enjoy the light and sculpture displays. Several activities have been move into the Exhibit Hall so that families may enjoy the games, rides and Santa in a climate-controlled environment. Activities in the Exhibit Hall include a 9-hole miniature golf course, face painting, balloon animals, a 16-foot inflatable kids’ slide, an inflatable rainbow kids’ castle. All of these activities are available for $7 per person. Everyone is welcome in the Exhibit Hall; only those participating in activities pay the fee. There will also be free popcorn and cotton candy inside the Exhibit Hall. Some activities in the Exhibit Hall will require a signed liability release form and the form will be available at the entrance to the Exhibit Hall.
The event will offer “bundle” pricing this year. For $15, an attendee may enjoy the activities in the Exhibit Hall, a 30-minute skate session and a photo with Santa, which saves $2 per person.
One of the new features this year, Par-T-Pets will be on hand to help design a stuffed animal for anyone wishing to take home a customized “pet”. This activity is similar to the Build-A-Bear factory at the Asheville Mall. A Par-T-Pet will be $10 and is not included in the bundle pricing.
Cherokee food vendors will be available on the Fairgrounds with great local and fast foods for the evening. Prices will vary depending on the vendor. A large tent and tables be set up near the food booths for dining.
Each night of the Cherokee Lights and Legends Christmas event, from 7-9pm, a Cherokee Bonfire will be held on the Fairgrounds. As is the tradition during the summer, EBCI tribal members will be at the bonfire, telling stories of the Cherokee people and sharing cultural and historic information about the land and communities of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
New Year’s Eve Fireworks will be shot at 9pm on Thursday, Dec. 31. The fireworks display will be visible from the Fairgrounds. The Sound of Music Disc Jockey Service will be on hand throughout the event, providing seasonal music and making announcements. On the evening of Dec. 31, Sound of Music will provide musical patriotic background leading up to the fireworks display.
Bring the family and the EBCI Commerce Department promises holiday cheer as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians hosts its 2nd annual Cherokee Lights and Legends Christmas event. Scheduled to kick off Saturday, Dec. 5, the hours of operation will be from 6-9pm. The opening will be just after the Cherokee Christmas Parade, which begins at 5:30 pm. Also, on Saturday, Dec. 5 at 6:30 pm, there will be an official lighting ceremony for the 40-foot Christmas tree as part of the kick-off. Principal Chief Patrick Lambert and Vice Chief Richard Sneed are scheduled to be on-hand to light the tree and exchange Christmas best wishes with event guests.
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday of each week after that (beginning Thursday, Dec. 10 and ending Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016), holiday activities continue at the Cherokee Indian Fairgrounds. The hours are 6-9pm throughout the event. Cherokee Lights and Legends Christmas will also be closed Dec. 24-26. Tickets will be sold in the exhibit hall and at the ice skating rental booth, and the main entrance gate at the front will be the only point of entry to the event. All other gates will be closed.