Columbia residents looking to get into the holiday spirit can grab their warm sweaters and carol on down to the 38th annual Vista Lights Thursday night.
This year’s Vista Lights event will take place on Nov. 16 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Gervais Street, Park Street and Lincoln Street. The event will include live entertainment, shopping, food and drinks.
The event is put together by the Congaree Vista Guild, a membership-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the Vista. Vista Lights is important to show people everything the area has to offer, said Abby Anderson, executive director of the guild.
“It's really the official kickoff to the holiday season in the city of Columbia. So, it’s a way to spotlight our businesses. We shut down the streets and invite people to come out and try something new that they've never tried,” Anderson said.
The Vista area used to be an inexpensive location for artists to rent studios and little more, Anderson said, so artists launched the Vista Lights event in 1985 to convince visitors to cross the train tracks that used to separated the area from the rest of Columbia.
The Vista has since developed to include restaurants and retail in addition to the art studios. The Vista Lights event has grown as well to showcase these shops, restaurant stands and performances that complement the existing art showcases.
“It's a way to spotlight these places ... All of their reservations for that night are full. They're slammed. They're selling on the street, also. And so it's just a way to help these businesses, especially leading into the holidays,” Anderson said.
Some local business, such as Stormwater Studios, will stay open late for the event with special shows and sales
Stormwater Studios hosts a small group of artists and will stage resident artist show from 6 p.m. to 9 pm. for Vista Lights. The event will include art showcases, a lit tree and drummers.
Stormwater Studios is home to several independent artists, meaning they host a wide variety of art styles. Vista Lights is a way for the studio and the artists to be more visible to the community, artist Michel McNinch said.
“I think art is integral to how we enjoy our lives, and we are helping to provide that,” McNinch said.
Visitors can also bring their families to a stage that features live performances, such as a show from The Suzuki Academy of Columbia, at Lincoln and Gervais streets from 6:15 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The Suzuki Academy gives lessons in violin, viola, cello and classical guitar to students ages 3 to 18. The Vista Lights event provides a unique opportunity for the academy’s students to perform their medley of Christmas songs and choreography for a larger audience, said director of violin and viola Kristen Harris.
“It's not our typical orchestra or classical music concert venue. It's kind of a fun, big, showy performance downtown for people that might not necessarily see us in normal concerts,” Harris said.
A tree lighting ceremony will follow the performances at 7 p.m. outside of the River Runner Outdoor Center on Gervais Street, officially kicking off the holiday season in the Vista.
"It is the first glimpse of Christmas and Santa that you're going to get around here," Anderson said.
The bands Prettier Than Matt and Soda City Brass Band will take the stage after the tree lighting and play until the event ends.
"It really gets people excited to start thinking about cooler weather and getting out and doing their shopping. And Thanksgiving is the following week, so it's really just an introduction to the holiday season," Anderson said.
To find out more details about the Vista Lights event, visit http://www.vistacolumbia.com/special-events/vista-lights.