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Americus Main Street presents the Parade of Trees at Rylander Park

AMERICUS – As one rides down West Lamar Street in Downtown Americus and drives by the 1800 Mexican Restaurant at night, one cannot possibly miss the beautiful lights of the Christmas trees in Rylander Park just to the right of the restaurant. With all of the sadness and turmoil in the area caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this group of lit-up Christmas trees in the park is a beautiful reminder that Christmas time is here and that there is still good news in the midst of all the tragedy.

The group of Christmas trees that stands in Rylander Park is known as the Parade of Trees and each tree is placed there by various individuals, local businesses and civic organizations to honor deceased loved ones or to simply send holiday greetings to the community.

This Christmas tree in Rylander Park is sponsored by the Smarr & Smith Families in honor and loving memory of fallen police officers Jody Smith and Nick Smarr who were killed in the line of duty four years ago.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

According to Americus Main Street Program Coordinator Haley Hanniford, it is a fundraiser for the City of Americus in which individuals, families, local businesses and civic organizations throughout Sumter County can and do take part in every year at this time. They will sponsor a tree for $50 to $75 and that money ends up going to the city’s Christmas Decoration Fund for the following year. “They decorate the tree in honor or in memory of someone, or their club, or they just use it as an opportunity to send a holiday greeting to their community,” said Hanniford. “We have some people who do it in honor of loved ones who have passed away. We have a couple of businesses that come and they decorate a tree just to wish the community a Merry Christmas and it’s just a really good opportunity for us to kind of come together and it showcases how diverse the community is. It’s just a really good feel-good fundraiser that we do at the City of Americus.”

Hanniford went on to say that the City of Americus has been doing the Parade of Trees project for more than five years and normally, the trees get decorated and are showcased. “Whenever the big Christmas tree gets lit in Rylander Park for our Christmas Open House event, all of the trees get lit,” said Hanniford.

This Christmas tree in Rylander Park is being sponsored by the Frog Pond Farm, located at 618 US Highway 19 South in Americus.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

The trees are actually owned by the City of Americus and they are put up by Americus Main Street every year. “This year, we lit them with string light,” said Hanniford. “In previous years, the people who are sponsoring the trees light them, but this year, we had enough money from the previous year to provide the lights for all the trees.” Hanniford went on to say that for $50, each civic group can come and decorate their tree and they will fill out a form that has a Christmas greeting. That greeting gets sent on to Hanniford, who will then type up the form, laminate it and put it in front of the group’s tree that they have decorated.

This Christmas tree in Rylander Park is being sponsored by the Junior Service League of Americus.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

According to Hanniford, most of time, a civic group or business will sponsor a tree for $50 because the $75 is for the city to use to buy the decorations, but she added that in her opinion, most people go with the $50 option because they enjoy the memories and tradition of decorating the tree every year. “They go and sponsor one of the six-foot tall Christmas trees in Rylander Park and they decorate it,” said Hanniford. “We just put the little laminated sign up and then the money that they pay to sponsor that tree gets used for our Christmas budget for the following year.”

This Christmas tree in Rylander Park is being sponsored by the New Life Addiction Recovery Support Center.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Americus Main Street is the department of the City of Americus that is responsible for the entire downtown district. “We are the Main Street Department, as well as the Downtown Development Authority,” said Hanniford. “Basically, we are downtown recruitment. All of the festivals and events that are put on by the City of Americus happen through us. First Fridays are put on by us and we focus primarily on business support and recruitment to the downtown district of Americus.”

This Christmas tree in Rylander Park is being sponsored by Wendy Clayton in loving memory of Peggy Ann Clayton, who passed away on March 23, 2018.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Some of the families, businesses and civic organizations that are sponsoring Christmas trees in Rylander Park include Georgia Southwestern State University, the Frog Pond Farm, New Life Addiction Recovery Support Center (Middle Flint BHC), the Smarr & Smith Family, Street Queens Truck Club, The Junior Service League of Americus and Wolf Creek Plantation.

The Parade of Trees in Rylander Park will stay decorated and beautifully lit through Christmas Day.