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Trees light the way to the Johnson Center

Christmas comes in different ways.

The Johnson Center for the Arts offered the community a unique way to welcome the holiday season with “Christmas at the Center” Tuesday night.

The night was alive with the beautiful songs of Christmas by the women’s choir from First Baptist Church and soloist Shelia Jackson and with the lighting of the Center’s nine Christmas trees.

Add to that, the “amazing” setting of the Center itself and what an event it was.

“The Johnson Center is the most amazing place,” said Ann Williams. “And when you add to it, the Christmas trees and the music, there’s just no place like it.”

The trees are sponsored by different businesses and organizations but several of them were decorated by children from local schools.

Although there was no overall theme to the Christmas tree extravaganza, the underling theme seemed to be children.

“I really enjoyed seeing the different ornaments made by the children,” said Joan Word. “The ornaments were made with different materials and I really liked the angels made with sheet music. I love to see children dabble in art.”

One of the trees was decorated with ornaments made by Pam Smith’s art class at Charles Henderson High School.

“I wasn’t sure that high school students would want to make Christmas ornaments but they really enjoyed doing it,” Smith said. “They were able to use their creativity in making the angel ornaments. No two are alike. Some of the students decorated the tree and several have been in to see it. This was something they really enjoyed.”

Juanita Bush said the Center’s trees are reminiscent of the Christmas trees of her childhood.

“With the paper chains, the gingerbread men and angels, they do remind me of our trees when I was growing up,” she said. “But we never themed our Christmas trees like so many do today. But I like the idea because you can see that it gave the students something to work toward and they have done a wonderful job — all of them.”

One of the Christmas trees that is child-like in appearance is the folk art tree of Doug and Dean Hawkins.

“It’s a Betty Sue tree,” Doug Hawkins said of the tree decorated with artwork by the folk artist. “I got Betty Sue to do many of these art pieces for me with the idea of having a folk art tree. I like the childlike quality of her people, bird and animals. I think her artwork makes an interesting Christmas tree.”

One tree is filled with patriotic ornaments, another with the Christian symbols of Christmas and another with traditional balls. All together the trees say “Merry Christmas to all.”

Sandi Gouge viewed the display of Christmas trees as a sampling of the Southern culture.

“And, this is such a great way to kickoff the Christmas season,” she said. “The trees were decorated by all ages — elementary, junior high and high school students. What is so wonderful about this display is that it shows how involved our whole community is.”

For Susan Murphree, the display of Christmas trees brought back a lot of memories but the one that stood clear was that of the Chrismon trees in her church.

“I like all of the trees but the Chrismon tree is my favorite because it’s a reminder of what Christmas is all about and it’s good to be reminded.”