DAVIDSON – Horses drawing carriages pad along Main Street, their hoof beats interspersed with the jingling of bells, while pedestrians flow in and out of shops in search of the perfect gift.

The hot chocolate, lit storefronts and occasional snowflakes help make Christmas in Davidson a much-anticipated celebration. An annual tradition since 1988, the event kicks off the holidays and attracts about 20,000 guests. 

This year, The Rotary Club of Davidson will host its third annual Christmas tree village on the green in front of the public library during the evening festivities Dec. 5-7.

Rotary is one of the world's largest humanitarian service organizations with 1.2 million members spread across 200 countries.  It's a global network of community volunteers that conducts projects to address issues of illiteracy, disease, hunger, poverty and environmental concerns.

Locally, 24 businesses – including The Veterinary Hospital of Davidson, The Soda Shop and Serenity Now Massage Therapy – each paid $200 for an evergreen tree to decorate, said Amy Holthouser, service chair for the club. Proceeds go directly toward the Ada Jenkins Center's free medical clinic renovation project.

Yet the true creativity arises from the businesses adorning their trees with a variety of ornaments, lights and popcorn strings to benefit a nonprofit of their choice. Many organizations across the Lake Norman area will be represented, including Angels and Sparrows Soup Kitchen, Levine Children's Hospital, Safe Alliance, Woodlawn School, Davidson-Cornelius Child Development Center, Friendship Trays/Meals on Wheels, Barium Springs Home for Children, Davidson Elementary School, Tribute to the Troops and Davidson Community Players.

Each night of the event, people can stroll through the winter wonderland of pine scents and buy tickets to vote for their favorite tree design. The money raised from the voting directly benefits the nonprofit or school associated with that tree.

"I'm excited for this year because there hasn't been a business-nonprofit partnership in years past," Holthouser said. "All the money in the past went to whatever charity or project we were working on. Hopefully, this will be a very big event."

Businesses this year feel more personally invested in the project, while those who want to support a particular nonprofit are more likely to come out and vote too, Holthouser said.

During a silent auction, visitors can also assist in raising money for the Ada Jenkins Center's free clinic renovations by bidding on one of the trees. The highest bidders will receive trees to take home at the end of the festival. 

Other highlights of the seasonal celebration include photographs with Santa Claus, a doggie fashion show, an ugly Christmas sweater contest with a $100 grand prize, hay rides, kid's crafts, gifts for sale from Ten Thousand Villages, live music and complimentary drinks.


Want some holiday cheer? Christmas in Davidson runs 6-9 p.m. Dec. 5-7 along Main Street. Find out more at www.christmasindavidson.com. The Rotary Club of Davidson meets 5:30-6:30 p.m. Wednesday evenings at the Lake Norman YMCA, 21300 Davidson St. Details: John Reeves, nambulus@yahoo.com or 704-439-4337.