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Congaree Vista lights up for the holidays

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Members of the 282 Army Band Victory Brass Quintet performed a mix of holiday and patriotic tunes at Vista Lights. (Photos/Chuck Crumbo)
By Chuck Crumbo
Published Nov. 20, 2015

About 10,000 people strolled along Gervais Street on Thursday night sipping beverages, sampling complimentary hors d’oeuvres and cashing in on shopping discounts during the 30th annual Vista Lights celebration.

The Congaree Vista’s signature open house, which kicked off the holiday season in downtown Columbia, was topped by switching on some 20,000 lights decorating the neighborhood Christmas tree at Gervais and Lincoln streets, next door to the Blue Marlin restaurant.

“Go and enjoy yourself and spend as much money as you can,” said Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, who officiated the lighting ceremony along with Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier, commanding general at Fort Jackson.

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Laurel MacCallum performs outside of the Peanut Man on Lincoln Street.
A tree featured a special topper designed and made by Clark Ellefson, Vista artist and pioneer to commemorate the event’s 30th anniversary.

A balmy November night with clear skies and temperatures in the 60s helped draw folks to the area, filling up the area’s parking garages and setting off a stream of bumper-to-bumper traffic along side streets.

Live music was performed by artists, who set up their lights, sang and played their instruments on sidewalks in front of several shops.

Meanwhile, the 282nd Army Band Victory Brass Quintet, wearing their smartly tailored dress blue uniforms and shiny black oxfords, moved around the area, pausing at various street corners to perform a mix of holiday and patriotic tunes.

More than 90 galleries, shops and restaurants and bars were opened for the event, many of them extending their regular daily hours.

Vista Lights was the first of several holiday events scheduled in the area.

On Thanksgiving, Main Street ICE – Columbia’s outdoor ice skating rink – debuts at Boyd Plaza at Main and Hampton streets.

The rink will be open from 5 to 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving and from 1 to 10 p.m. ever day after until Jan. 18.

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