Cleveland had the experience of a fairy tale Saturday as 50 Nights of Lights was kicked off and filled children's faces with Technicolor wonder.
To usher in the holiday season, residents and visitors gathered downtown for the annual Christmas tree lighting.
This year, thousands more lights were added to the Christmas displays.
Becky Nowell, committee chairman, said, “We are excited for people to come look at our lights and decorations and shop and eat while they look.
“We have the perfect setup for people to drive down Cotton Row to the south end of the Greenstrip to College Street, come back up to Sharpe Street and all the way to Highway 8.
“The vision is for Cleveland to become a destination place. For people in the Delta and surrounding areas to visit during the holiday season to see our lights and to shop and eat in our great stores and restaurants while they’re here.”
The committee included Ray Bell, Susannah Wessel, Linda Collins, Paul Janoush, Amy Vance, Judson Thigpen, Lisa Cooley, Aimee Taylor, Kelly Carr, Eric Kelly, Tasha Huerta and Diane Makamson.
“Jim Tims and Quality Steel jump started our project by purchasing the first display for 2017, the huge poinsettia wreath was our first purchase and it is really spectacular.
“The committee selected displays that we thought would fit these themes and approached individuals, businesses, and civic clubs and asked them to select one and donate it to the city.
“The response was overwhelming and over $200,000 of new holiday displays and decorations were donated,” said Nowell.
Each display has a plaque stating whom the donor is and if the display was donated in honor of someone.
Entergy and the Mississippi Development Authority helped with entertainment downtown and activities through grant monies.
“This is a true community effort. Many hours have been spent putting lights in trees, putting together the new displays, and all of this would not have been possible without all of the volunteers in the community. A number of volunteers have spent hours helping us get all of this done.
“Every time I sent a message out and asked for help I had overwhelming responses and I can't thank you enough for all of the help.
“The other group that helped make this possible is every employee in the public works for the city. Many of them are out here tonight still working. These guys worked a lot of hours in the rain, cold and wind. Please take a minute to thank them for all the work they do to make this special,” said Nowell.
During the celebration, Grammy winner Tricia Walker sang Christmas songs.
Sen. Willie Simmons said, “Cleveland, Mississippi, is referred to down in Jackson and other places as the jewel of the Delta. We are the lighthouse of the Delta so it’s fitting tonight that we come and pause and say thanks to our Heavenly Father as we begin to enter the season to celebrate the birth of Christ.
“Here in Cleveland, home of the Grammy Museum we are starting 50 Nights of Lights and people will come to see us and the lights. While people visit they’ll spend money here as well.
“Becky, thank you and the committee for your hard work. This doesn't happen without someone making a commitment to it like our first lady did,” said Simmons.
Simmons also thanked Cleveland Public Works and the Janoush Family for their contributions.
With a countdown, Simmons turned the lights on to great cheers of glee as the holiday season began.
Music and other activities will take place downtown each weekend through Christmas.