Porterdale Mayor Arlene Chapman, shown here in the dining room of her historic home, which features original heart pine floors and Asian art, will roll out the welcome mat for visitors during the “Christmas in the Village” event in Porterdale on Dec. 5. The event features a tour of homes, caroling by local choirs, music by the Newton County Community Band and performers from “The Nutcracker” ballet. (Staff Photo: Karen Rohr)
PORTERDALE — For many years, the city of Porterdale has celebrated the Christmas season with one type of event or another, but this year a host of entities are coming together to put the village’s yuletide spirit in high gear.
In league with the Friends of Porterdale, Porterdale Mill Lofts and the Arts Association of Newton County, the city will usher in the season with “Christmas in the Village,” set for Thursday, Dec. 5.
This year’s celebration will include a Tour of Homes (sponsored by the Friends of Porterdale) from 4 to 8 p.m.; caroling by the Oxford Youth Singers and a local church choir at the Julia A. Porter United Methodist Church on Cotton Avenue from 5 to 6 p.m.; the venerable Newton County Community Band in the historic Porterdale Gymnasium at 6:30 p.m.; and a reception featuring performers from the Arts Association’s upcoming presentation of “The Nutcracker.”
“To my knowledge, this is the first time Porterdale has done something like this,” Teri Haler, Porterdale’s downtown director, said. “And we’ll continue from here with the Christmas Parade at 7 p.m. on Friday night and the fifth annual Tuba Christmas, which is put on by Eastside band director Alan Fowler, on Sunday.”
Touted as “8 Historic Homes, 2 Lofts, 1 Church,” the Porterdale Tour of Homes is the only ticketed event (which are $20 and can be purchased at several outlets, including City Hall) on the “Christmas in the Village” docket.
In addition to a visit to the Porterdale Mill Lofts (which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places) and Julia A. Porter Methodist Church, the tour will feature a number of historic structures, including homes built between 1900-1917 for employees of Bibb Manufacturing.
Haler, who pointed out that this is the second tour of homes in the last two years, said that the nonprofit Friends of Porterdale will utilize any and all proceeds for continued improvements to the Porterdale Gymnasium.
Also noteworthy will be the concert presented by the Newton County Community Band, founded and directed by the legendary music instructor T.K. Adams.
The Christmas recital will be held in the Porterdale gym, which originally opened in 1938, fell into disuse in the 1980s and caught on fire in October 2005. The city has been able to utilize SPLOST funds to begin the renovation of the gym, but the building still lacks a roof, among other things.
“We’re going to have a grand opening for the gym in the spring,” Haler said.
“Light fixtures have just been installed. Were still going to enhance and renovate other areas in phases as we can raise money or get grants or state funding. There’s a really large stage at the back of the venue. Now we can use temporary staging for concerts and performances but we do want a permanent stage to go in the back.
“Another huge project would be putting the roof on it. It’s been designed and engineered so we can actually do that in the future. Right now it’s an open-air venue and we’ll make it work.”
Haler, who went to work in Porterdale this past summer, said she’s hopeful the Christmas events will appeal to those both near and far.
“We hope to attract local residents and folks from outside the village,” she said.
“We would love to bring folks out from surrounding communities so we can showcase Porterdale and show them our rich history, natural resources and historic homes. We might be small community, but we definitely think big. We’re very interesting and charming.”
Haler added that she’d like to see “Christmas in the Village” become a yearly holiday destination for folks.
“I definitely see this as an annual event because I really believe we’re growing by leaps and bounds and constantly improving the community,” she said.
“Porterdale has a great team of leaders in place so I can really see, with the combined energy, vision and passion that we all have, that we’re ready to cultivate the revitalization the town needs.”
For more information on “Christmas in the Village,” call Porterdale City Hall at 770-786-2217 or email Teri Haler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chris Starrs is a freelance writer based in Athens. To contact him, email email@example.com.