Manteo pulls out all the stops for its holiday celebration

Sophia Spinella, Staff Writer

Manteo is a little town with big holiday traditions.

The town of Manteo begins to set up for the holiday season late in November. It has decorative lights on the lamp posts and holiday flags and banners. The big tree in the downtown area gets lit up on the night of the tree lighting and many local businesses also decorate for the holidays.

“I feel at home when I see the Christmas lights driving through the town,” senior Jenna Zottoli said.  “It makes me feel spirited to see all the decorations.”

The annual tree lighting takes place in downtown Manteo on the first Friday in December. The tree lighting is the First Friday celebration for the month. There are also performances in front of the Old Historic Courthouse.

Members of the school’s band, chorus and strings perform downtown along with groups from other schools.

“The tree lighting is one of my favorite performances of the year to bring joy to all even though we stress about it in the end all is fine,” junior Mary Marchitelli said. “We are there to sing to our community. We sang my favorite songs ‘Carol of the Bells,’ ‘Hoodie’ and ‘This night.’”

Hot chocolate and hot apple cider are served along with Brunswick stew and sweet treats. There is also a bonfire for people to keep warm. Santa makes a special appearance and the town’s Christmas tree lights up for the first time.

The celebration is a time for the whole community to gather and enjoy the holiday season together.

”The tree lighting brings the community together,” Jessica Everett said. “It’s a great way to show holiday spirit.”

The morning after the tree lighting,  the community gathers again for the annual Big Little Town Christmas Parade. This will be the 45th annual Christmas parade. The parade starts at the high school, runs through Downtown Manteo and ends behind the Dare County campus of College of the Albemarle.

Schools, charities, and local businesses make floats and participate in the parade. Marching bands from Manteo, First Flight, Hatteras and Columbia schools perform and members of the school’s News Crew record and commentate it. This year seniors Katie Gruninger and Gracie Deichler covered it for “Manteo Today.”

“It was fun to walk through the parade and ask kids what they were looking forward to in it and what they wanted for Christmas,” senior Katie Gruninger said. “Gracie filmed while I interviewed and talked about the parade. I felt like I was at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!”

Santa returns for the parade and stays afterwards to have his picture taken with children at the boathouse.

The holiday festivities do not end that weekend. The Elizabethan Garden began hosting its Winter Lights at the end of November, and the event is open select nights in December and January. The Gardens are decorated with Christmas lights and holiday displays for people to walk through and see. Students in chorus, band and strings perform, and festive food and drinks are served. There are fireplaces around to keep warm.

“When you step into the Elizabethan Gardens during Winter Lights, it’s like you’ve stepped into another world,” senior Katelyn Medlin said.  “It’s hard to describe what they’re like, they’re just so beautiful. It really gets you in the Christmas spirit. My cousin and his wife work there, and they spend weeks getting it ready beforehand. The hard work really shows. It’s truly like a winter wonderland.”

Manteo is a small town, but there are many holiday traditions for the whole community to enjoy and celebrate.