Holiday Spirit Swells in Gaston County

The Gastonia Christmas Parade starts in downtown at 5 PM.

GASTONIA, N.C. — Christmas is back in Gaston County. The Gaston County Jaycees are making sure the upcoming Gastonia Christmas Parade, which is running well into its eighth decade, goes off without a hitch.

“It means a lot to this community, because it brings Christmas spirit, it starts off the holiday season, and it just gets the community together in a happy, happy time,” says Jaycees President Andrea Grenier.

Troy Knight – Chairman of the Board, Gaston County Jaycees

“We’ve been doing this parade now for over 80 years,” added Jaycees Chairman Troy Knight. “So, to have that same community relationship and Christmas spirit for that long, it just really unites all of us and gives us all a reason to hang out together.”

It truly is a monumental event for some, like lifelong Gastonia resident Greg Zemaitis.

“I remember as a little kid, my very first moment at this parade… Santa came by and did the whole ‘finger gun’ wink at me, and it made my life.”

Just down the road in McAdenville, Christmas Town U.S.A. opened for business Thursday night with the flick of a switch. Thousands drove and walked through the streets set aglow by millions, if not billions, of holiday lights.

Tito Ramirez moved from Costa Rica to Gaston County when he was just eight years old and grew up watching the lights. On this cold December night, he led the ceremony in song.

“As a world, we’re so divided by what we agree and disagree about,” says Ramirez.

“We draw these hard and fast lines about what we think, and our opinions are so strong nowadays, so it’s beautiful that, even for a season, we can come together and celebrate Christmas, celebrate the birth of Christ, and do it in a joyful way.”