Fairfax residents will have the opportunity spread holiday cheer, take part in traditional December rituals and even meet with Santa Claus himself as the City of Fairfax hosts its annual Festival of Lights and Carols Dec. 1-2 at Old Town Hall.
"It’s really a chance to draw the residents of the City of Fairfax downtown to kick off the celebration of the holidays," said Leslie Herman, special events coordinator for the City of Fairfax Parks and Recreation Department. "This is one of those events that we see our residents looking forward to every year."
The two-day weekend festival, which has been around for more than 20 years, starts off on Saturday, Dec. 1, at 9 a.m., with presentations of homegrown community gifts at the Fairfax Museum and Visitor Center before ending the following day with musical entertainment in the downtown Kitty Pozer Garden.
Along the way, area residents will have the opportunity to visit and take photos with Santa Claus, drink cider and eat s’mores while listening to Christmas Carols, catch the ceremonial lighting of the city’s Christmas tree and sit down to make a holiday card for an injured soldier at Walter Reed Hospital.
"This is one of those events that really gets the spirit going," said Herman. "I can definitely see this as being one of my family’s personal traditions, we’ve been coming since we’ve been here in the area and we have a great time every year."
THE HOLIDAY kick-off in the city’s downtown is characteristic of Fairfax’s "hometown charm" according to Marty Farmer, a City of Fairfax resident and festival volunteer for the last 20 years.
"It’s one of the really nice things about the City of Fairfax," said Farmer. "Here we are in the midst of this large metropolitan area, but you still can get the feeling that you’re part of a small town, and that’s great."
Farmer, who plays a "principal role" as a volunteer at Saturday’s lunch, visits and photos with Santa Claus, said that he prefers the community approach to the holidays over the events that take place in the region’s malls and shopping centers.
"This is not the mall, no one is waiting in line for a half an hour to get that picture for grandmother," he said. "It’s all more of a relaxed atmosphere and it’s a little more familiar for the kids, which I think makes it more enjoyable."
The community aspect of the event is part of what sets it apart from other area holiday celebrations, according to Herman. The Festival of Lights and Carols features performances from the local Jubil-Aires singing group and the bell-ringing music of the Good News Ringers.
For Fairfax City Councilmember Joan Cross, taking part in the festival’s caroling wells up the most holiday spirit.
"Growing up in the Midwest, caroling is something that we always did at the holidays," said Cross. "So for me, that always brings back a lot of good memories."
THE FESTIVAL is also a chance to display the improvements made to Fairfax’s downtown over the course of the last year and how those changes can be dressed up for the holidays, said Herman.
"The city has always taken great pride in its special events and this is a chance for the city to really show off the downtown’s enhanced holiday decorations," she said. "And those decorations are not just for the festival, it’s something that folks can see and enjoy while driving through town throughout the season."
The free event is a great chance for families to get together and bind with the community at the holidays, Cross added.
"It’s a very nice family evening for our residents," she said. "It’s just another demonstration to them of what a family-oriented city that this is."
The atmosphere alone is worth the trip downtown, said Herman.