KFP: Holly day – Christmas tree lit in downtown Kinston

Holly Day tree lighting

Kinston City Councilmen, from left, Wynn Whittington and Robbie Swinson, are joined by Mayor B.J. Murphy, right and their children and grandchildren in lighting the Christmas tree Tuesday night at the Lenoir County courthouse. Not shown in the photo is Lenoir County Commission Chairman Craig Hill, who also helped light the tree.

Sara Pezzoni / The Free Press

By Junious Smith III / Staff writer

Published: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 20:01 PM.

The recently elected members of the boards for Kinston and Lenoir County fittingly set off a celebration for the area.

Craig Hill, B.J. Murphy, Robbie Swinson and Wynn Whittington all participated in the ceremonial tree lighting ceremony for the seventh annual Holly Day celebration Tuesday at the courthouse.

Hill was appointed as the new Lenoir County chairman at Monday’s commissioner meeting, while Murphy was sworn in for his second straight term as mayor at a city council meeting the same day.

At the same council meeting, Swinson was sworn in for the third consecutive time with Whittington going through the process for the first time.

The ceremony was symbolic of how the leaders hope the city and county can work together.

Hill said it is vital for Kinston and Lenoir County to have symbolism and back it up with results in the future.

“I think this is another example of the city and county working closely, and I hope we can do more things together,” Hill said. “If we can all work together, this will be a better place.”

Murphy said the city needs the help of the county and vice versa.

“The success of one governmental entity is success for all,” Murphy said. “Likewise, failure of one entity is failure for all. We must continue forging this relationship, and tonight was another way to show we’re working in one accord.”

As far as the event, the mayor said the event is great for downtown Kinston. Stores and restaurants on Herritage Street were open, providing discounts and Christmas cheer to residents.

“Tonight’s event is exciting because this is when we officially kickoff the holiday season in our community,” Murphy said. “The Holly Days event is a culmination of city, county, Pride and small businesses getting together with our youth and the arts community to celebrate the holiday season.”

Pride of Kinston Executive Director Adrian King said the celebration has grown in popularity each year and had been helpful to the businesses in the area.

“The Pride and county bought a Christmas tree together several years ago, and it has just become almost a staple in the holiday season,” King said. “We’ve had Miss North Carolina here one year, high school basketball teams and local celebrities.

“The celebration was initially held to help merchants get more customers during the Christmas season. Now the event has been part of our seasonal culture, preceding the Christmas parade.”

Rick Vernon, host of Down East Today with Tutt Media Group, was the master of ceremonies, saying he enjoyed what the event stood for.

“It’s a great way to bring the city and county together,” Vernon said. “It’s great to see kids, senior citizens and community leaders coming together.”

Chasity Carraway, who was recently crowned Miss Outstanding Teen for Kinston/Lenoir County, said she was excited about seeing the hundreds of people at the celebration.

“This event brings the community together, and it’s great to have an opportunity for this,” Carraway said.

Kinston resident Arletha Jackson said she enjoys this time of the year because of the positivity.

“I love the holidays and it’s a great time to be joyous,” Jackson said.

N.C. Rep. George Graham, D-Lenoir, attended the event, saying he’s been here each year.


“The holiday season is a wonderful time,” Graham said. “I grew up a couple of blocks from here at Carver Courts. It’s all about spirit, love and great people. There’s no other place I’d want to be.”

Junious Smith III can be reached at 252-559-1077 andJunious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JuniousSmithIII.