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Roseburg Forest Products, which is building the Roanoke Valley Lumber sawmill in Weldon, is the sponsor for this year’s Christmas on the Avenue event.

Christmas on the Avenue will have events going on simultaneously in the uptown business district, the 1026 Urban Greenspace and Centennial Park on Friday, December 3 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The event serves as a lead-in to that Sunday’s Christmas parade, which was cancelled last year due to COVID-19.

“It’s an honor to be part of such a longstanding tradition,” said Adam Reed, who is the plant manager for the sawmill. “Just to be able to be there to represent that will be great.”

He said since Roseburg has had a presence in Halifax County since 2017,  “What we’re envisioning is to be able to include some of those family members that are part of that. I’d really love for their children and grandchildren to be up there and they’re going to be up there to light the avenue and Christmas tree.”

Also, Reed said, “In some regards it’s really a thank you for the warmth we’ve received since we’ve been here — not only from Roseburg on a company level but also for myself. We’ve located in this area so it’s such a positive experience. Some of this is our opportunity to really say thank you to the community for that warm welcome.”

Main Street Development Director Christina Caudle said Christmas on the Avenue will be similar to last year’s Joy in Park. “We’ll have all the commercial decor out there. We’ll light the tree, Santa will be at the gazebo, there’s going to be face-painting, holiday music and food trucks.”

Uptown, she said, there will be letters to Santa, crafts for children, more food trucks, and craft vendors. Shops and restaurants will be open.

There will be two hayrides trekking between uptown and Centennial Park. One of the highlights at the Urban Greenspace will be the 9-foot tall joy sculpture which last year became a popular spot for photos.

“Our hope will be that maybe a family will come uptown, do the letters to Santa and then go to Centennial Park, do all the activities there and ride the hayride back,” Caudle said.

Parks and recreation Director John Simeon said last year’s event had a good mixture of people and the photo backdrop at Centennial Park, decorated by the Halifax County Convention and Visitors Bureau, as well as the joy sculpture, became popular spots. “It was a good mixture of everybody out there. There might be some teenage girls out there on a Saturday afternoon taking photos with each other. There would be families or grandparents with little kids. It was a great mix of people.”

Simeon said the city is pleased to work with Roseburg on the event. “We’re proud to work with them to bring this event to the communities so that families and friends can be sharing the Christmas holiday.”

Caudle said Roseburg’s sponsorship of the event means organizers will be able to add more activities uptown. “We also are adding trees that Roseburg is donating to the front of Centennial Park so there will be additional decor.”

Roseburg worked with Roanoke Nursery on securing the trees.

As the event gets underway at 6 p.m LED lights will be lit around the Centennial Park walkway and food trucks lined up.

Santa will arrive at the event by fire truck, escorted by the police department, the senior center van and public works.

Upon his arrival, Santa will be escorted to the gazebo for photo sessions.

“We anticipate a very large crowd,” Simeon said. “We hope to have a really good turnout. We hope to bring people from 30 miles away. This event is for families to take free photos with Santa Claus. To be able to do that and watch the kids’ faces light up is precious.”

Said Reed: “One of the things we’re about is providing those opportunities which aren’t always accessible. That’s a great opportunity. We’ll have the kids coming and sitting on Santa’s lap. You’ll see that with some of the other things we have done. We have supported the veterans gala at HCC. Those are the type of opportunities we look for where we see a direct connection to the community.”