HIGH POINT, N.C., Dec. 15, 2017 – Somewhere between telling Santa what she wanted for Christmas and dancing under the falling snow, five-year-old Bailey Michael and her family made time for a train ride surrounded by lights on the second night of High Point University’s Community Christmas.
“I’m about to go on the Polar Express,” she said before she boarded. “Then we’re going to the bouncy houses, and I’m really looking forward to that so we can play.”
Nearby, Evelyn and Theo Chunn and their two children watched a man make giant snowflakes bigger than dinner plates on a machine that sent them flying off into the night’s cold air.
“If you aren’t in the Christmas spirit yet, this will get you there,” Theo Chunn said.
“We came from Winston-Salem because a coworker told us we had to see this,” Evelyn Chunn said. “We’ve seen Santa and want to stop by the petting zoo. This is an amazing time for kids and families.”
These families were part of the 26,000 people who attended HPU’s seventh annual Community Christmas. On Thursday and Friday night from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., buses shuttled thousands from Oak Hollow Mall to campus, where they were treated to a Christmas extravaganza.
Throughout the two-night event, which concluded tonight, community members huddled with hot chocolate on the Kester International Promenade and enjoyed a hot dinner in the Millis Athletic and Convocation Center. Trains whisked them around the Roberts Hall Lawn while Santa greeted them in the Slane Student Center. Their eyes widened at the sight of simulated snow and a life-sized Nativity. They met camels, miniature cows and pigs at Santa’s Stable Petting Zoo, and orchestras and choirs from local schools and churches performed for them in the Charles S. Hayworth Memorial Chapel.
Some families have carved out traditions at HPU’s Community Christmas, held for the past seven years, but no matter how many times they attend, there’s always something new awaiting them.
“The Nativity attraction was very encouraging,” Moses Tucker said while pausing with his family for a warm, peaceful moment inside the Chapel, just before the Penn-Griffin School for Arts Orchestra took the stage. “We wanted the children to have the full experience, and it’s been a great one.”
“I love this event and come to all of the community event that the university holds,” said Jonathan Wagg, a High Point resident. “I partook in the Communion service in the chapel and really loved it; I love the formality of Communion and that it is such a holy sacrament. This event brings people together, everyone from everywhere in High Point. Dr. Qubein is very insightful to do this as a way to bring us together.”
What started as humble beginnings seven years ago has grown into the premier complimentary Christmas celebration in the Piedmont Triad. This free event is organized by hundreds of HPU faculty, staff and student volunteers who contribute a total of 2,500 hours to make it possible.
“Part of the stewardship of being a God, family and country campus is to reach out to the community,” said HPU President Dr. Nido Qubein. “It’s great for them to experience HPU’s campus during the Christmas season. Our campus lends itself to that. Just walking around is inspiring.”
What They Said About Community Christmas:
“I love this event for my granddaughter and for myself, too. It’s beautiful with a lot of things for both kids and for adults, for young and for old, and that’s why we come every year.”
-Wayne Ervin of High Point
“This event is just awesome. It’s nice that the university does this type of thing for the community and bringslittle children onto campus like this to think about where they can go to college. I brought my four-year-old nephew, and he says he wants to go to HPU now.”
-Donathan Streater of High Point
“The bands, the music and the atmosphere are a great thing for families to enjoy. Families can come together here to spend time with each other and make great memories.”
-James Hutchens of Archdale
“This is a wonderful thing HPU does for the community. My six-year-old daughter is in heaven right now. She plans to give the hat Santa gave her to her brother for Christmas.”
-Paula Hurley of Kernersville
“The train was fantastic! Riding the train, seeing Santa and the petting zoo were my favorites. I would say that this has been amazing, amazing, amazing. And magical. I got to see a giant snowflake that floated up, which is cool because snowflakes usually fall down.”
-Aliza Hurley, 6 years old, of Kernersville
“I got the chance to ride the train through the tunnel and get sprinkled with snow. I see so much joy on people’s faces walking to and fro. The scenery is beautiful, and everyone needs to come experience this for themselves. Everyone looks very excited and happy, like this is something they were really looking forward to do.”
-Donna Mobley of High Point
“This is our first time attending Community Christmas and we love it very much. This kind of atmosphere is so good for families. We can’t wait to ride the train and love seeing the snowflakes.”
-Ann Resor of Greensboro
“My favorite part is the hot cocoa. We’ve seen Santa and done the elf workshop. It’s really a lot of fun.”
-Eve Bruning of Greensboro
“I attended and loved the event last year, so this year I wanted volunteer and play a role in HPU giving back to the community. I think it’s great that HPU is taking an active role in giving back, and it’s exciting to see everyone’s face when they get here.”
-Rebecca Ulrich, HPU senior and Community Christmas volunteer
“It’s nice to see everyone mingling and having a good time.” “People are really walking and talking with each other and spending time together. Doing this for the community is very special.”
-Barbara Klein of New York, visiting her granddaughter who attends HPU