FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- It's that time of year. Tales of a nutcracker prince and a red-nosed reindeer fill the ears of those young and old. Shoppers rush to stores in search of perfect gifts while nativity scenes and menorahs remind us of the miracles of the season.

Fort Jackson is helping to usher in the holiday spirit with fun events for the entire community this week. A tree lighting ceremony is scheduled for 5 p.m., today in front of Post Headquarters and the annual holiday concert will be 6 p.m., Sunday at the Solomon Center.
Melisa Childs, with the Directorate of Contracting, said she has been focusing on the details of the installation's holiday décor and tree trimming on a daily basis.

"I've been working on this project for a year. It's been a long process from allocating the funds to replacing old decorations, but it has been fun," Childs said. "We coordinated with a decorator to make sure that we had something special this year. We have new decorations on the tree and even presents under the tree that make it feel like a home environment."
A Columbia-based company is responsible for the decorations team.

"There are about 15 of us working together out here," said Charles Ladson with Professional Buyers Advantage, who is heading up the decorations. "We've been working 7 days a week for the past two weeks to get ready for this."

The team used ladders and 25-foot high boom lifts to decorate the Post Headquarters and tree with more than 33,000 lights. "There are deer that light up and the angel out front lights up. We're working hard to make sure that it all lights up on Thursday night," Ladson said.
The PBA team is not just using lights to brighten the holidays; decorating Fort Jackson has also provided a life-changing opportunity.

"We have some in the group working on the decorating who were homeless or otherwise out of work, but multi-skilled and very talented people," said James McQuilla, the CEO of PBA who came out to observe the work Tuesday. "They've been very excited to be a part of this and do something so meaningful."

Their work will continue with maintenance of the light displays until January.
Hot cocoa will help participants keep the chills away as they wait for Santa, who traditionally rides in on a fire truck.

The C.C. Pinckney Elementary School choir will also perform during the event.

This year, the 282nd Army Band's holiday concert will do more than just showcase the talents of its members. The band has also invited instrumentalists from outside the Fort Jackson community to join its performance during its annual concert Sunday.

"There will be about 40 people playing from our band. We have five local high school students that will be performing with us and one or two retirees," said Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Ward, bandmaster. The band has been rehearsing for the past month to create a concert that all will enjoy.

"It's just a good variety of Christmas music this year like classic Christmas, big band jazz and modern rock," Ward said. "The holiday concert is for the community and for the Soldiers to kick off the holiday season. It will be something special for everyone."