For twenty years, the late Porter Wagoner hosted the festivities and would flip the switch gracing the entire property with the twinkling of two million lights marking the start of the holiday season. This year, that honor was bestowed on Headline News "Morning Express" anchor, Robin Meade.
The weather for the 25th Anniversary of Country Christmas' Lighting Ceremony was perfect with just a light fall breeze. Dressed in metallic lame jackets in traditional Christmas colors, Rockabilly Christmas (aka Hillbilly Casino) hit the stage, set up at the entrance of the Magnolia lobby of Gaylord Opryland, with a bounding energy with lead singer, Nic Roulette, bouncing all over the stage.
Santa Claus brought along several of the Rockettes, in their red fur-lined costumes, to perform a short dance on stage. The Grinch came out to his last ceremony as he announced via whisper to Robin Meade that 2008 is to be the last year for Dr. Suess' Grinch and Whoville with the ICE! Exhibit at the Gaslight Theatre. Taking a break from the NashVegas on the River show on the General Jackson, "Elvis" appeared on the balcony overlooking the Magnolia entrance to perform a quick tribute to the King. Louise Mandrell took a break from rehearsal in the Delta Ballroom to present a cowboy hat as a welcome to Nashville for Meade.
Just before flipping the large NES (Nashville Electric Service) switch, Meade brought everyone back to the stage including Pete Weien (senior vice president and general manager of Gaylord Opryland), Decosta Jenkins (president and CEO; NES), Mandrell, the Grinch, Rockabilly Christmas, Santa Claus and the Rockettes. Guests quickly moved to the front drive, with the Tennessee State University Marching Band playing, and with one pull the grounds were lit. The lights revealing one big change in that the large Nativity Scene, itself flounced by lights, has now been placed on the lawn near the entrance giving it a larger impact. It had originally been placed in the Opryland theme park and then most recently within the area of the Magnolia pool. It was a great look, but only being seen by those passing through the hotel on foot willing to take on the cold winter to go outside to take it in.
Following the lighting, the Rockabilly Christmas band took to the stage once again to close out the night as many guests returned to the front of the stage to dance along with the band.
Though you can take a drive around the complex to view the lights, it really is worth it to park your car and take a walk through the hotel itself. Throughout the hotel are the popular poinsettia trees, Christmas hot-air balloons and instrument-playing animals parachuting in from the roof through the atrium. You can also enjoy a view of the decorations via a flat boat ride, around the Delta, where a tour guide will explain various details about the hotel. Though it is well known as a spot for large conventions, the hotel is more of a vacation in itself with a spa, shopping, restaurants, dance club Fuse, a workout facility and more available to you without ever leaving the premises.
Article Written & Submitted by Michelle Durham