The Daily Gamecock

Silent night, rainy night

Annual Carolighting ceremony canceled for inclement weather

It wasn't quite the fanfare Gov. Nikki Haley and Mayor Steve Benjamin had hoped for on Monday evening's Carolighting celebration that each year sees the state's Christmas tree lights switch on.

Planned for the event, which was canceled earlier in the day in anticipation of inclement weather, were crowds of people, all gathered to see, as the portmanteau suggests, the lights flicker to life and choirs share renditions of holiday carols.

Instead, the crowd of about 30 standing near the tree scattered about five minutes before the scheduled 6 p.m. lighting as a cold rain began to drench the Statehouse grounds and a stage on the building's steps stood empty.

But inside the Statehouse's main lobby, the party lived on, as Haley, Benjamin and their families joined USC President Harris Pastides and state cabinet officials to thank a crowd of the Columbia Garden Club and the Breakfast Optimist Club volunteers who worked to coordinate the celebration.

They were greeted by punch, poinsettias and holiday music played by the Fort Jackson band's brass quintet — and a group of five "Occupy Columbia" protesters who stood quietly with American flags draped over their shoulders, as a part of the group's scaled-down "Silent Night" demonstration.

Fittingly, Haley offered a conciliatory message to the audience.

"I hope that everyone remembers that through the many fights and issues that happen on the grounds of this Statehouse," she said, "that at the end of the day, we are a blessed state."


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