COVINGTON - The old Andy Williams tune says the holiday season is "the most wonderful time of the year," and locally, it all starts in downtown Covington on Thursday night with the lighting of the Newton County Historic Courthouse.
This year, the event is called Ringing in the 2008 Holiday Season in Downtown Covington.
Hosted by Main Street Covington, the event is the traditional start to local holiday shopping and celebrating.
Santa Claus will arrive on the Square by horse-drawn carriage at
5 p.m. and will spend the remainder of the night in his workshop at the Ramsey Furniture Annex.
Special Moments Photography will be on hand to take professional photos of the little ones and Santa, though attendees can bring their own cameras.
The lighting of the courthouse will take place at 6 p.m. Each year, Main Street Covington and the Arts Association in Newton County choose a worthy resident to do the honors. This year's selection is being kept secret until the big night.
The Oxford Singing Children and Covington Regional Ballet Company will provide entertainment and free carriage rides will be offered.
The event also kicks off late shopping hours for the downtown, which will take place each Thursday night until Christmas, along with visits from Santa and the carriage rides, sponsored by United Community Bank.
An added treat this year will be an appearance by football legend Vince Dooley, former head coach and athletic director at the University of Georgia.
Dooley will be available for autographs from 4 to 7 p.m. at Mayfield Hardware, located at 1115 Washington St.
"He called us. He said he would really like to come to Covington, and he heard this was the place to be for signings," store owner Kendra Mayfield said.
Dooley will only sign books that he has authored, memorabilia he will bring to the event for purchase, or items purchased at Mayfield, she said.
Dooley has just released two new books, "Dooley's Playbook: The 34 Most Memorable Plays in Georgia Football History" and "Hairy Dawg's Journey through the Peach State."
Three of Dooley's other books, along with game day caps and other memorabilia, will be available for purchase and autographs.
Mayfield has also stocked special items like footballs and helmets for the occasion, she said.
"We're so excited about it. We feel like he's such a popular figure. We expect a big response and hope for a big response," she said.
A ticket system will be implemented to keep the wait time down and avoid long lines.
"This has always been a wonderful community night, and we wanted it to continue to be that. We want people to visit other stores, as well," she said.
Thursday also kicks off the Elves on Shelves Treasure Hunt. Everyone is invited to scour downtown stores for hidden elves and turn in a list of those they find to enter a drawing for a Christmas stocking that includes gift certificates and Main Street Bucks. Entries must be submitted by Dec. 22 with a winner to be announced the next day.
"As an organization, we are really encouraging our community to think about shopping locally this holiday season ... It's critical we support local retail during this holiday season. They offer a lot of services and make Covington like it is," Main Street Director Josephine Kelly said.
Main Street Bucks, which can be used to purchase items in the downtown business district, are also available in $5; $10; and $20 increments at the Main Street Covington Office.
For more information, call the Main Street Covington office at 770-385-2077.
Finally, all local holiday happenings are listed on a brochure created by Main Street and the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce. The brochures are available at the Chamber, located at 2101 Clark St.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at email@example.com.