The 37th annual Vista Lights event took place Thursday, Nov. 17, after a pause during the pandemic. (Photo courtesy of The Congaree Vista Guild)

Christine Boring and her family have looked forward to The Congaree Vista Guild’s Vista Lights event every year for 23 years.

Last Thursday, as the Vista tree’s multi-colored lights came on, she remembers telling her mom she was pregnant under the same tree. Her mom passed away three years ago, but she said she’ll always cherish that fond memory.

“We still always come, but I always have that kind of bittersweet (feeling),” Boring said. “I remember telling her — she was so excited because I had just found out.”

The Borings are originally from New Jersey, and she said events and traditions such as the Vista Lights are unique to the South and smaller cities such as Columbia.

“I was like, ‘Oh they close off the streets, we never grew up with any street closing, That just seems like so much fun,’” Boring said.

The Guild held its 37th annual Vista Lights event Thursday to raise money for the organization with the help of sponsor Prisma Health. Vendors and artist booths displayed Christmas goodies along the streets of Lincoln and Gervais.

A crowd of locals and newcomers gathered for a night of holiday festivities — local wine, beer, food, and performances by bands and dance studios. Towards the end of the night, some gathered to have a photo-op inside a giant snow globe or sitting on Santa’s lap.

“We refer to (the Vista Lights) as the official kick-off for the Holiday Season in the city of Columbia,” Guild Executive Director Abby Anderson said. “Especially coming out of the pandemic, … I think there’s an itch for people to kind of get back to normal … and experience a long-standing tradition that they’re used to.”

Bands played in a closed-off Lincoln Street, near the tree, along Gervais Street. People could drop unwrapped gifts into a dumpster behind the band’s stage for the Toys for Tots holiday charity. The beer distributors also gave $1 for every beer purchased to the charity.

The glass-blowing shop, One Eared Cow Glass, has participated in Vista Lights for around 25 years. Katrina Lockart, of One Eared Cow, talked about how rewarding the event is to participate in.

“It draws people out into the art community,” Lockart said. “We’ve got a lot of artists down here now of different mediums, so people kind of get a feeling of other things in Columbia going on that they weren’t aware of (until) they come out to something like this.”

Lockart said the excitement ensues every Thursday before Thanksgiving. She said it’s a tradition in many families. 

“We kind of just do our part,” Lockart said. “It definitely felt like Christmas.”

People played and posed for a photo-op inside a giant snow globe. (Photo by Reagin von Lehe)

Families pose for pictures with the event’s Santa. (Photo courtesy of The Congaree Vista Guild)

Local dance studios perform each year. (Photo courtesy of The Congaree Vista Guild)