The spirit of the season is heightened with decorations that enchant.
By Melissa Sprouse Browne
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas holidays give family and friends many opportunities to gather together. Celebrations abound, both great and small, and an annual event called Christmas on the River lets you attend a fabulous holiday tour of homes and a hot after-party at Stone River in West Columbia with the band, Heart N Soul.
Presented by the West Columbia Beautification Foundation, Christmas on the River serves as a fundraiser for the Foundation’s efforts throughout the year. A non-profit organization, it’s dedicated to enhancing the aesthetic appeal of West Columbia. Since 2007, the efforts of the West Columbia Beautification Foundation have made a positive, measurable impact throughout the city.
As it did last year, the 2014 home tour feature involves Bridgepointe Condominums and Congaree Park. A select group of homeowners open up their lovely properties for attendees to enjoy professionally decorated homes in a jovial atmosphere. The tour begins in the lobby of the Bridgepointe, located right across the Gervais Street bridge from the Columbia side of the river. The feeling of Christmas greets you with a gigantic, decorated tree that dominates the two-story foyer. Live performances are given hourly on the grand piano and by strings groups from the USC Department of Music. The special guidebook outlines the homes to be visited at this first stop.
An eleven-story structure, Bridgepointe has four homes on each floor. The penthouse level also contains four homes, but these four are two stories apiece. Several homes throughout the building are open for review and last year’s event also featured all four penthouses.
Once the open homes of Bridgepointe have been visited, the event continues onto Congaree Park, where the participating single family homes give you a chance to see some of the best decorations for the holiday in a pristine, riverfront community. Even though last year’s weather was cold and damp, completing the tour was made easy by the Foundation, which provided golf carts to transport guests from one venue to the next.
Becky Richardson, Chairman of Christmas on the River, is a former South Carolina legislator and interior designer. “I think this event gives us a great opportunity to show what a wonderful place West Columbia is and especially what it’s like to be living on the river,” Becky said.
“The members of the Beautification Foundation came up with the name, Christmas on the River, because we wanted everyone to see why the West Columbia riverfront is so special,” Becky explained. “We’ve had great participation from the residents of Bridgepointe and Congaree Park and lots of volunteers are involved. We’ve had USC students, we’ve had senior citizens, and the many people who help stage the event.”
In 2013, Billy Mungo’s Bridgepointe home was decorated by Becky, who honored his request to have a theme color of purple throughout his holiday trimmings. Billy’s sense of whimsy was perfectly captured by all of the arrangements created and selected for his already lovely home. Patti Shelley, Billy’s neighbor, had a cute Gamecock-themed tree as part of her decor. A former University of South Carolina cheerleader, Patti’s enthusiasm for her alma mater hasn’t waned one bit.
The finale of the event is the reception at Stone River, located right at the corner of the Gervais Street bridge. With heavy hors d’oeuvres and a command performance from Heart N Soul, this party goes on into the night. The Foundation is very fortunate they agreed to be the headliner for the reception, as this musical group has a loyal following and a solid playlist of rhythm and blues from the 1950s and ‘60s.
“The Foundation was thrilled by the number of individuals and companies that helped support this event. When we asked for help, we had a positive response. It was great, and we couldn’t have Christmas on the River without their support and contributions,” said Becky. “It’s a wonderful, entertaining day for people to come and see gorgeous Christmas decorations up close. The homeowners go all out and they enjoy it as much as the people who visit.”
The 2014 holiday tour and reception will be held on Sunday, December 7th. The tour of homes runs from 2pm through 6pm and the reception at Stone River begins at 5pm. Tickets for the tour are $25 and for those who wish to go to both the tour and the reception with Heart N Soul, tickets are only $40 each. Tickets are available by calling Justin Black with the City of West Columbia at 803.791.1880, extension 610. Tickets are also available at the door at Bridgepointe on event day. More information may be found on the Foundation’s Facebook page; search for West Columbia Beautification Foundation.