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Russellville holds prayer ceremony, tree lighting to kick off holiday season

Every year the Russellville Cultura Garden Club hosts the Every Light a Prayer for Peace Ceremony, but this year the celebration will be even bigger as the Garden Club will also hold the first Christmas Tree Lighting.

The celebration will begin Thursday in front of the Franklin County Courthouse at 4:30 p.m., with the tree lighting following across the street at the Byars Building.

“It really feels like this year COVID has just been the Grinch and kind of killed the holiday spirit,” said Cultura Garden Club member Susie Hovater Malone. “I feel like everyone needs something where they are able to get more into the spirit.”

The Garden Club has hosted the Every Light A Prayer for Peace ceremony for more than 30 years, and Hovater Malone said this year is just as important to continue spreading peace through prayer.

“There is so much of a divide in our country right now,” Hovater Malone said. “We need prayer in this country to help bring us all back together. Prayer for peace has always been important, and this year it is just as important.”

The guest speaker will be First Baptist Church Minister Chase Dowdy, and the Russellville High School chorus will perform several songs.

To close the event, candles will be passed out by members of the Garden Club, and RHS drama student Iris Salgado Valenzo will recite the poem “Light A Candle.”

Following will be the Christmas tree lighting.

Hovater Malone said although this will be the first Christmas tree lighting in Russellville, she hopes it is a tradition that will continue in Russellville for years to come.

The tree is a 12-foot Norway Spruce planted at the Byars Building on Jackson Avenue. The tree was purchased with money donated by Pilgrim’s Pride, and it will grow to be about 50 feet tall.

“We loved the idea of making that area festive and some place that can be decorated for years to come,” Hovater Malone said.

Junior Leaders dressed in festive costumes will hand out candy canes to those in attendance.

Franklin County Chamber of Commerce Director Cassie Medley said she is excited to see the Junior Leaders involved with the event.

“It is great for them to get to be involved with so many events because they get to see what all is going on outside of their area,” Medley said. “For a lot of them, they may not know what different events there are outside of school, so this way they can see what all volunteers there are in the area and what different ways they can get involved.”

Hovater Malone said she hopes to see a lot of people come out to support the events and help spread the holiday cheer.

“We are really excited for this, and we hope to see everyone there,” Hovater Malone said.

The fun will continue Dec. 6 when Krewe de Guard hosts Santa and Mrs. Claus in front of the newly-lit downtown tree. Community members are invited to come take a picture with Santa – bring your camera or smartphone to take your own picture. Donations will be accepted, and hot cocoa will be available for $1. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be on site from 1-4 p.m.