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HPU’s Sixth Annual Community Christmas Wraps up with 20,000 Visitors

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Korbin (left) and Jeremiah Poole visit Santa at High Point University’s Community Christmas Celebration.

HIGH POINT, N.C., Dec. 15, 2016 – Three-year-old Kennedy Knox was just one of 20,000 community members to attend High Point University’s sixth annual Community Christmas.

While coloring a picture of Lego Santa at HPU’s Crafty Elf Workshoppe, Knox decided two things. First, her Santa needed a yellow beard, green arms and pink fur trimmings. Second, having just visited Santa for a photo and the hat she was currently wearing, she decided her mom could share her Christmas list.

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Children enjoyed simulated snow at tonight’s celebration.

“I know she wants a blue toy dragon,” said Jennifer Knox, looking down at her daughter. “And I know she also wants to go see the camel at the petting zoo.”

The two-night event, which concluded tonight, welcomed neighbors to campus for a time of fellowship amongst the falling snow, candy cane-clad stilt walkers and Santa’s Stable Petting Zoo.

Some families have carved out traditions at HPU’s Community Christmas, held for the past six years, but no matter how many times they attend, there’s always something new awaiting them like the Polar Express train rides.

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From left to right, D’Ontae Walker and Dniya Walker received a free gift from HPU staff member Taylor Coakley after they visited with Santa.

“This is a good family event that’s well organized and has something for all ages to enjoy,” Glennett Morning, a High Point resident, said. “My aunt loves walking around campus to see the lights and get hot chocolate, and my son loves the bounce houses and the arcade. Every year we notice that it gets better and better. The shuttles are very smooth, especially being able to wait inside Oak Hollow Mall. Everyone is helpful and genuine and full of the holiday spirit.”

“The whole setup, everything that’s here and the way it brings everybody together, is what I love,” Olivia Poole, a High Point mom who brought her two sons, said. “It’s been a family tradition for us for three years now. We look forward to it.”

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Candy canes on stilts posed with attendees at the Dream Big Rocking Chairs.

Tonight’s low temperatures didn’t bother R.J. Morning, an eight-year-old boy from High Point.

“I like the cold because it means it’s going to snow,” Morning said while gusts of simulated snow below across campus. “I like that there’s fun, games, Santa, a train and bouncy houses.”

What started as humble beginnings six years ago has grown into the premier complimentary Christmas celebration in the Piedmont Triad, and it’s all organized by hundreds of HPU faculty and staff volunteers who contribute a total of 2,500 hours to make it possible.

They do it all for community members like Mary Lou Blakeney.

“I’ve tried to come every year, and I think I’ve only missed one,” said Blakeney, a High Point native. “I come just to see those kids’ eyes light up. Like when they see the snow. They have no idea that it’s fake and I watch them turn to their moms and say ‘Look mom!’ I told President (Nido) Qubein that this is the best thing he could have ever done for this community.”

 By the numbers – HPU’s campus was decked in:

86,000 lights

11,740 feet of garland

166 wreaths

608 banners

450 bows

82 nutcrackers and soldiers

23 nativity scene figures

300 poinsettias

12 Christmas trees

Editor’s Note: 1) Korbin (left) and Jeremiah Poole visit Santa at High Point University’s Community Christmas Celebration. 2) The T. Wingate Andrews Marching Band performed for crowds in the Millis Center. 3) Children enjoyed simulated snow at tonight’s celebration. 4) From left to right, D’Ontae Walker and Dniya Walker received a free gift from HPU staff member Taylor Coakley after they visited with Santa. 5) The North Carolina Brass Band performed for event attendees in the Hayworth Fine Arts Center. 6) Attendees filled the Millis Athletic and Convocation Center, where complimentary hot food was served. 7) Children took rides across campus on the Polar Express train. 8) Candy canes on stilts posed with attendees at the Dream Big Rocking Chairs.

        What They Said About Community Christmas:

 “It’s grown over the years, but still managed to keep all of the same traditions and attractions available. It’s just fantastic that HPU does this for the community,” said Jill Jarrell, a Jamestown native who attended the event for the fifth year. “They don’t have to do it and the fact that they show such kindness and giving really will teach the children the importance of giving and the cycle will continue on from there. You never know exactly what members of the community will be receiving for Christmas so the fact that the university makes sure everyone has this experience is really something special. It has definitely become a tradition for us and we plan to come back for as long as the event goes on.”

“It’s our first year coming and it’s just been great. It was easy getting here and the kids have loved all the details. My son is especially excited about the snow. I have to keep telling him to stop trying to catch it in his mouth,” High Point native Jennifer Knox said with a laugh.

“The whole setup, everything that’s here and the way it brings everybody together, is what I love,” Olivia Poole, a High Point mom who brought her two sons, said. “It’s been a family tradition for us for three years now. We look forward to it.”

“We took my first train ride and went to the bouncy house” eight-year-old D’Ontae Walker said while he clutched his hot chocolate and waited in the line to see Santa. “I’m glad I got this hot chocolate because it is keeping me warm tonight.”

“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen snow, but this is awesome,” said nine-year-old Faith Fitzgerald, who lives in Florida but is visiting her grandmother in Thomasville, as she twirled in the falling snow. “I love this place because it’s all about Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, and I love Christmas.”

“We’ve come every single year since the event started because we think it’s just the coolest thing,” said Nicole Rothrock, of High Point, who brought her two children. “I love that this gives back to the community for real. That’s so awesome and not enough places do that anymore.”

“There’s nowhere else in High Point where you can go to meet Santa or see anything like this,” said High Point resident Jasmine Terry. “That’s why I knew that I needed to come and bring the kids.”

“The Bouncy House is something I always do. I love that they have made a petting zoo – you get to pet the animals and see and experience everything that they do,” Carley Rothrock, 6, said. “I’ve seen some llamas before, but not like the fuzzy ones here, and I’ve never seen a camel until tonight.”

“The first time I brought my daughter was when she was one year old. Now she’s three years old and we’re still coming back. I think is just an amazing opportunity for the community to experience this campus,” said Jarvetta Bynum-Mosley.

“When we came last year, the kids loved, and when we told them we were coming again this year, they got so excited,” Laquana Medley of High Point said. “And when we told them there would be animals this year, that made it even better. This is a good adventure for the kids to enjoy.”

“My first year at Community Christmas was 2014 with my husband, and it was so exciting to see. We have come back since and just enjoy the sights around campus,” Ruby Davis of High Point said.

“The kids have been excited, especially when they hear ‘Lego’ – their faces just light up,” said Kiera Johnston, a third grade teacher at Immaculate Heart of Mary and a graduate student in HPU’s School of Education, as she volunteered in the Crafty Elf Workshoppe at the event. “It’s important for them to see that Legos can be both fun and educational, and this is a great way to reach the entire community. We have mini kits they’re building with, a maze they’re programming a robot to get through and coloring. They’re all saying, ‘Mom and dad, can we go do Lego now?’”

“Jake loves every part of it, but especially the snow,” Allison Taylor of Lexington said about her three-year-old son. “It’s magical for the kids. There’s just so much for them to do and see.”

“He says he wants to come to High Point University someday,” Ngoc Trinh said about her son, Ethan, in kindergarten. “This is our first year but a great experience for him and we’ll definitely be coming every year.”

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