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The Center for Rural Development ushered in the Christmas season Monday night at its annual Spirit of Giving community tree-lighting ceremony and a special night of holiday festivities.

About 300 people attended the special event, featuring a musical concert by the Bell Tones children’s choir, holiday prize giveaways, free refreshments, a visit from Santa Claus, and the lighting of The Center’s 20-foot Christmas tree for the first time this holiday season.

Cast members from “The Gift of the Magi,” the evening’s Children’s Prime Time Theatre Christmas performance, joined Lonnie Lawson, president and CEO of The Center, to officially activate the lights on the decorated tree.

Earlier in the program, the Bell Tones children’s choir entertained the crowd with a selection of holiday carols. The choir, under the direction of Anita Carolyn Peters and Tammye Sumpter, includes second-, third-, and fourth-grade students from Bell Elementary School in Wayne County.

Following the tree-lighting ceremony, Lake Cumberland Performing Arts in partnership with The Center presented “The Gift of the Magi,” a holiday performance based on a short story by O. Henry. The holiday performance was also viewed by 1,400 students from 16 public and private schools across the region earlier that day at two School Time Theatre performances.

Refreshments for the Spirit of Giving community tree-lighting ceremony were provided by Somerset Walmart, which also donated a fruit basket as a door prize in the ticket giveaways.

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