Asheboro celebrates Christmas the old-fashioned way.
A choir gathers in the front parking lot of Hop’s Bar-B-Q to sing carols. A block away, high school students in Victorian dress lift their voices to the night sky. On the next block, folks enjoy the festive sounds of a brass ensemble. It’s the Christmas on Sunset Avenue event, and the performers change throughout the evening, ensuring that music of the season continually fills the air.
Now in its eighth year, Christmas on Sunset will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on December 14th. Thousands of people will come to downtown Asheboro to mingle with elves, visit Frosty the Snowman, and place their youngsters on Santa’s knee. They’ll enjoy free hot chocolate, warm apple cider, roasted marshmallows, and popcorn.
Bob Williams recalls growing up in Asheboro when Sunset Avenue — and nearby Fayetteville and Church streets — were the center of the city’s universe. Every year his parents would drop him off downtown on a Friday night around Christmastime so that he could buy his own gifts in secret alongside throngs of other shoppers.
“The crowds in the ’50s, this really reminds me of it,” he says, surveying the Christmas on Sunset scene — thousands of people eating, drinking, and being merry. “Of course, the crowds stayed out of the road then. It used to be this crowded on the sidewalk, elbow to elbow.”
The clip-clop of hooves rings on Church Street as buggies and wagons carry small groups on short rides — a popular Christmas on Sunset staple.
Ronald Hudson holds the reins to a team of mules. “The reason I like it — I can remember my childhood, riding with my granddaddy,” Hudson says. “When he died he still owned a mule, and as far as I know he never owned a car. It might be the same with some people, and it might be something they’ve never done but are wanting to do.”
The people of Asheboro are happy to play host to such a joyful — and free — event. “You look at this,” Williams says, “and it makes you wonder why we didn’t always do this.”
If you’re going …
Festival activities take place on Sunset Avenue in downtown Asheboro, between Church and Fayetteville streets.
Chip Womick writes for The Courier-Tribune in Asheboro.