It’s WCU night in Dillsboro

Festival of Lights in Dillsboro, NC. Photo from Town of Dillsboro.

The first horse-drawn carriage ride will trot off at 5:30 p.m. in the town of Dillsboro, to kick off the 29th annual Lights and Luminaries celebration with Western Carolina University’s new Provost, Angi Brenton and family. Following the carriage ride, Mrs. Belcher, wife of Western Carolina University’s chancellor, will fill the air with Christmas spirit by leading a sing-along in the courtyard amongst children from the surrounding areas. The town of Dillsboro has invited all students, faculty, staff and community members to join them for WCU Night on Friday, Dec. 7 from 5:30-9 p.m.

For the first two Friday and Saturday nights in December, the historic village will be aglow with over 2,500 luminaries as well as silhouette lighting on the shops. In Dr. Betty Farmer’s opinion, “the best part about the Dillsboro Lights & Luminaries is simply the feeling you get when you walk in the glow of the lights. It just feels special. It’s a unique experience. I have to admit I love all the treats the merchants provide, too.” Farmer is special assistant to the chancellor for Dillsboro.

The shop owners will keep their stores open after hours, so that guests may shop while enjoying complimentary holiday treats along with warm apple cider and hot cocoa. Guests will also have the opportunity to experience a magical horse-drawn carriage ride for a spectacular view of the holiday spirit-filled town. As the evening progresses, children will have the opportunity to whisper their Christmas wishes into Santa’s ear at Town Hall.

Catamounts will get a special discount for all purchases with proof of their student identification on WCU night, Dec. 7. WCU participants will also have the opportunity to enter in a raffle drawing for a gift basket of items donated from the merchants totaling more than $750. The lucky winner “might be able to take care of everyone on his or her Christmas list,” said John Miele, a member of the Dillsboro/WCU Partnership Committee and co-owner of the Golden Carp.

“There is always an increase in sales and in the amount of students/faculty who come in the store during the luminaries, and we are hoping for a great turnout this year,” says Miele. Farmer also explains that “There are a multitude of reasons for people to come to the luminaries–from visiting with Santa to enjoying the free entertainment–but a primary one would be to do some holiday shopping in a great atmosphere…”

“The free round-trip shuttle transportation is one of the most unique parts of the luminaries,” says Danielle Cansler, senior at WCU. “It’s so convenient, especially when you live on campus or simply need a study break.” The transportation is sponsored by WCU’s Student Government Association and will be available at the A.K. Hinds University Center beginning at 5 p.m. on WCU night. The shuttles will continue to run every half hour until 9:30 p.m. To reserve seats on the shuttle for you and your family, please contact Kathryn Giles, a senior communication major and art minor at WCU, at Free parking in Dillsboro will also be available.

Storeowners will host a variety of entertainment throughout the evening. Free face painting will be available at the “Craft corner” in Claymates, along with other activities offered at a discounted price. The WCU Early Music Ensemble, dressed in Renaissance attire, will perform at the Jarrett House from 6 to 7 p.m.

WCU Night is part of the Dillsboro/WCU Partnership that was established by former Chancellor, John Bardo in 2009 to help the nearby town of Dillsboro by offering them the intellectual expertise of students, faculty and staff through many academic disciplines.

“A lot of students come to the luminaries and shop in the stores when they are made aware of the event. WCU’s partnership with Dillsboro really helps us out,” said Miele. Carroll Brown’s Hospitality and Tourism students have volunteered to set up the lights in the town, while many of Betty Farmer’s Public Relations students are assisting with the promotion of the event. There will be multiple volunteers from WCU assisting with the various activities as well.

For more information about WCU Night in downtown Dillsboro, contact Dr. Betty Farmer, special assistant to the chancellor for Dillsboro, at (828) 227-3804 or at

See the invitation for the event.