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Holidays expected to boost travel

HIGH POINT — High Point is preparing to benefit from a strong holiday season as forecasters predict a rebound in holiday travel this Thanksgiving.

Visit High Point staff members have noticed an uptick in phone calls and visits to the visitors center looking for shopping opportunities, Visit High Point President Melody Burnett said.

“We know that there is a lot of pent-up demand for travel, especially for visitors in the leisure market,” Burnett said. “We have some leisure opportunities throughout the week with visitors who are looking to update their space before the holidays, so we direct them to the 58-plus furniture stores in town.”

For the weekend, events like the Uptowne Holiday Stroll, Kersey Valley Christmas, Christmas with John Berry, the High Point Ballet’s “Nutcracker” and “A Christmas Carol” will make it attractive to tack on a day visit or overnight stay in High Point, Burnett said. Many High Point visitors like to stop here on their way to larger destinations such as Asheville or Myrtle Beach, Burnett said.

According to the Destination Analysts, which studies travel and tourism trends, the number of Americans who plan to take a trip during the Thanksgiving holiday has more than doubled compared to 2020, even surpassing 2019 numbers. Last year at this time, many people stayed home or went to small family gatherings for turkey, stuffing and traditional Thanksgiving fixings. This year, the wide availability of COVID-19 vaccinations has made people feel more comfortable about travel.

AAA predicts 53.4 million Americans will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 13% from 2020. This brings travel numbers within 5% of the pre-pandemic numbers for 2019. For North Carolina, AAA forecasts nearly 1.5 million people in the state will travel for Thanksgiving, a 13% rebound from the 2020 holiday and only 2% below pre-pandemic numbers.

“We expect a strong holiday travel season as the health officials have given travelers the confidence to resume their visiting without restriction,” Burnett said. “Taking a road trip to visit friends and family and shopping are activities that Americans view as safe and budget-friendly during the holiday season. Furthermore, 35% of travelers who visit friends and family will stay in a hotel, which has more local spending impact opportunities for our community.”

The rebound also is getting closer to pre-pandemic levels for air travel, Piedmont Triad International Airport Executive Director Kevin Baker said.

“Based on projected seat totals, it appears that we may get close to 85% of 2019 passenger levels,” Baker said.

At the November PTI Airport Authority board meeting, board members learned the number of passengers was up 135% in October from October 2020, though still 27% less than October 2019.

The total number of departing PTI passengers currently expected for December 2021 is 90,339, nearly double the 48,988 in December 2020 but down 20% from December 2019.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport expects more than 234,000 passengers will pass through the airport Monday through Sunday of Thanksgiving week, about 53,000 less than the same week in 2019 but more than twice as many as last year’s 103,000. Overall, passenger traffic at RDU is still off about 25% from pre-pandemic levels.

Charlotte Douglas International Airport’s Thanksgiving holiday travel numbers are nearly on par with pre-pandemic numbers from 2019, airport officials said.

At PTI, Baker said business conferences, seminars and trade shows need to return fully to return to normal levels.

“Leisure travel was fully rebounded (and in some cases outpaced 2019 numbers) months ago, but business travel is much slower to return,” Baker said.

Burnett agreed.

“Our area partners are seeing an uptick in group and social meetings that plan to book now and into 2022,” she said. “It may be the spring of 2023 before we start to see a resemblance of normal travel in our hospitality industry.”

cingram@hpenews.com | 336-888-3534 | @HPEcinde

Inaugural holiday gala draws revelers
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HIGH POINT — Core city small business owners Angel Schroeder and Joe Hubay both expected a boost heading into the holiday season from the inaugural High Point Holiday Party, but they hope the momentum symbolized by the event carries over 365 days a year.

The High Point Holiday Party played out Saturday, with the base of activity around Truist Point stadium downtown.

The lighting of a 44-foot-tall Christmas tree was scheduled after sunset. With 35,500 LED bulbs, the tree is the largest in the Triad, organizers of the event said.

After the tree-lighting, a free community showing of the movie “Elf” was planned at the stadium.

The day’s activities included a Holiday Craft Fair at Truist Point and a trolley that took revelers to stores and restaurants along the Main Street corridor. Trollies already were busy ferring passengers by late in the afternoon.

Hubay’s business — High Point Jewelry and Fine Gifts — as well as Schroder’s Sunrise Books served as trolley stops during the celebration.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Hubay told The High Point Enterprise. “It’s great exposure, and the ability to ride from place to place on the trolley.”

Momentum has been building in recent years with the core city revitalization and developments such as the High Point Rockers and the Truist Point ballpark, the business and community center at Congdon Yards and the impending opening of the food hall, Hubay said.

The coronavirus pandemic set the course back, but the fundamentals of making the core city a destination remain, said Hubay, whose family runs another downtown business, Plank Street Tavern, owned by his wife, Pam.

“The holiday party is a great way to kick off the holidays and start building back that momentum,” he said. “It’s not a one- or two-year plan — it’s a six- or seven-year plan.”

Schroeder told The Enterprise that the holiday party serves as another reminder “that there is stuff to do” in the core city, downtown and Uptowne High Point.

The celebration allows Schroeder to promote all of her activities for the holiday season.

“We are handing out our holiday catalog and touting our specials for the season,” she said. “I’m hoping this is a first-annual event like this.”

The High Point Holiday Party was primarily organized by Furnitureland Rotary Club, with Dr. Lenny Peters and his Bethany Medical as presenting sponsor. High Point University President Nido Qubein and the university also contributed to the event.

pjohnson@hpenews.com | 336-888-3528 | @HPEpaul

HIGH POINT CONFIDENTIAL: Christmas parade in ’59 was magical for one little boy
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HIGH POINT — We don’t know the name of the little boy who made The High Point Enterprise’s front page on Nov. 29, 1959.

All we know is that he was 3 years old, he wore a red coat and hood, and of all the children who attended that year’s High Point Christmas Parade, nobody enjoyed it more than he did.

Why? Because he didn’t just go to the parade that year — the parade also came to him.

The lineup for that ’59 parade was a great one. The grand marshal was actress Amanda Blake — better known as Miss Kitty from the popular “Gunsmoke” television series — and other guests included Old Rebel and Pecos Pete from WFMY-TV’s beloved “The Old Rebel Show.”

One of the parade highlights that year was an XF-92A, an experimental U.S. Air Force plane designed to fly at supersonic speeds — an impressive-looking aircraft that would capture any little boy’s imagination.

Add to that the marching bands, beauty queens, ROTC drill teams, firetrucks and police cars, cowboys and horses, hot rods and a High Point Rescue Squad boat — not to mention jolly ol‘ St. Nick bringing up the rear — and you have the makings of a prodigious parade.

And it was, indeed, prodigious. The Enterprise called the throng of spectators “the largest crowd in High Point parade history,” which may or may not have been hyperbole, but either way speaks to the size and enthusiasm of the crowd lining Main Street that afternoon.

Among that crowd were the little boy in the red coat and his mother. We’re sure they were enjoying the parade, but the mother’s heart was heavy with emotion as she watched her son. Finally, she timidly approached a nearby police officer.

Here’s what happened next, according to The Enterprise:

“Officer,” she said, “I wonder if … could you … would it be possible for you to stop a clown or somebody in the parade and ask him to come over and talk to my little boy?”

The officer smiled and politely explained he didn’t have the authority to disrupt the parade like that.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I thought maybe you could,” the woman replied. “It would mean so much to him. You see, he has only two or three months to live.”

The policeman’s heart immediately melted — or, as The Enterprise put it, “Authority went out the window” — and the officer went looking for his sergeant. The sergeant, in turn, told a parade official about the little boy and his mother’s unusual request, and the wheels began turning quickly.

Before the young mother knew it, her little boy was getting personal visits from all sorts of parade participants: Clowns with red noses and oversized shoes. Macho cowboys with 10-gallon hats and six-shooters in their holsters. Firefighters in full turnout gear. Beauty queens in pretty dresses and sparkly tiaras.

Even Santa Claus — who, as you know, is a pretty busy guy — paused the parade long enough to go speak to the youngster, and what a moment that must’ve been. After all, it’s one thing to go stand in line somewhere to talk to Santa, but imagine Santa getting down out of his sleigh to come talk specifically to you!

The parade ended, the spectators left, and city crews cleaned the streets.

And an Enterprise reporter went back to the office and wrote about the little holiday miracle on Main Street, when a child received the best Christmas present of his life, and his mother went home with her heart the fullest it had ever been.

The headline on the article simply read, “His Last Christmas.”

Maybe it was the little boy’s last Christmas, and maybe it wasn’t — we’ll never know. But confidentially, we’re betting it was his best.

jtomlin@hpenews.com | 336-888-3579

Christmas Cheer Fund holiday drive kicks off

HIGH POINT — A tradition of holiday giving that spans nearly a century has officially returned this year with the kickoff of the annual Christmas Cheer Fund drive.

In its 98th year, the annual campaign, organized by the High Point Kiwanis Club, raises money to buy Christmas presents for underserved children in the greater High Point community. The club raises the money in conjunction with The High Point Enterprise, which publishes updates listing contributors and the amount of money raised.

This year’s goal is to raise $45,000, which will be used to buy gifts for about 200 children identified through the Boys and Girls Clubs of High Point and Communities in Schools.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit nearly two years ago, The Kiwanis Club, with the help of local agencies that serve underprivileged youths, took the children on a shopping spree at Target, allowing them to choose their own presents. In years prior, the club held a live gift distribution event.

This year, the two participating agencies will receive the money and decide how to get the gifts to children, whether it be through online or in-person shopping, said Bobby Jones, chairman of the Kiwanis Club Christmas Cheer Fund Committee.

“This year, we provided the money to the agencies and let them do a hybrid of what they thought was appropriate for their groups,” Jones said, adding that the club hopes to eventually get back to the live shopping spree.

In addition to Jones, this year’s Kiwanis Club Cheer Fund Committee members include Joan Campbell, Ellen Amick, Lynn Johnson, Wiley Stockton, Jim Horney, Kenny Mack, Ed Thomas and Steve Uhlin.

The fund drive was started in 1924 by The High Point Enterprise as a campaign to raise money for needy families. “Local organizations, such as the Rotary, Kiwanis and Civitan clubs, are to aid in taking care of these families,” The Enterprise said in a front page article published Dec. 12, 1924. The initial campaign collected $848.

The responsibility for the campaign has changed over the years. It was operated as an Empty Stocking Fund by the High Point Jaycees for about 30 years, after which it was passed around among different private local residents and groups.

When the last local nonprofit charitable organization owner, the late Benny Braica, retired in the 1990s, the High Point Kiwanis Club took over what’s now called the Christmas Cheer Fund. The Kiwanis Club is now in its 26th year of operating the fund.

Previous donors should have received letters and postpaid return envelopes for making a contribution this year. Donations should be made out to the Christmas Cheer Fund and sent to P.O. Box 5467, High Point, NC 27262. A total of contributions and a list of contributors will be published Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays during the campaign in The High Point Enterprise beginning Thanksgiving Day and running through Christmas. In early January, a listing of all donations to this year’s campaign will be printed.

jfeeney@hpenews.com | 336-888-3542 | @HPEJoe


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