By Hannah Lester

Christmas is an especially fun time for children and the Opelika Pubic Library has events planned for families to spend time together this season. There are the annual events, like the movie marathon and the Fa La La Festival, and a new event the library is planning — A Very Merry Stroll.

“At our new library, we have a walking path,” said Rosanna McGinnis, library director. “We are going to line that walking path with live Christmas trees. Businesses can sponsor those trees and decorate them which will make a festive atmosphere for people to walk through.”

A tree lighting  occured on Dec. 3 and the trees will stay up and lit until Dec. 31, McGinnis said. One local resident, Kristin Mayes, took the idea for the Very Merry Stroll in Huntsville, where the idea is dubbed the ‘Tinsel Trail’. “She really wanted to see it happen here so she has been spearheading it for us,” McGinnis said.

Visiting Huntsville, which is home for Mayes, involves a visit each holiday season to the Tinsel Trail, she said.

“Christmas is my absolute favorite time of the year,” Mayes said. “So, for me personally, it’s not about the gifts, it’s about the memories being made with family and friends. I wanted to bring this to Opelika because when I moved here seven years ago from a much larger city in North Alabama, I immediately fell in love with city of Opelika and I refer to it as ‘Mayberry’ like from the Andy Griffith show.

“I love how supportive and tight knit this community is. Opelika is so welcoming of ideas, so I took a chance and decided why not and presented the ‘Tinsel Trail’ idea from my hometown of Huntsville. I thought this idea would bring a lot more people into the beautiful downtown area of Opelika and help promote community.”

Mayes takes her daughter to Huntsville’s Tinsel Trail and she said she believes Opelika’s version will be a fun, free, family event.

“The amount of joy it brings is indescribably, it’s truly magical,” she said. “My favorite memories about the Tinsel

Trail are seeing my daughter’s eyes light up, hearing all the families ‘oohs and ahhs’ over the creativity of the decorations on the trees and watching families and friends take photo after photo by their favorite trees. I feel like when I am visiting the Tinsel Trail, I am getting a second chance to be a kid all over again.”

It doesn’t only need to be businesses that participate, however, McGinnis said, families and organizations can also sponsor trees.

Sponsoring a tree depends on the size of the tree. Six-to-seven-foot trees will cost $250 while 10-foot trees are $400.

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“All money raised is going, after the cost of the tree and all the things associated with that are deducted, are going toward, the Library Friends are trying to purchase a musical garden for our out-door space, as well as a dinosaur bone playground structure,” McGinnis said.

The new library opened in October at 1100 Glenn St.

“We’re super fortunate in our new building to have green space attached to it,” McGinnis said. “We have a walking trail that we have put in out there and within that walking trail, there are big open areas. Both of the play pieces that we’ve selected are not your traditional playground equipment. It’s more inclusive equipment where, like a musical garden, all ages and abilities can make music and play on.

“So think percussion instruments where you just bang on the drums and there’s a [xylophone] … Then the dinosaur structure is like a T-Rex skeleton that’s sort of in the ground. It’s not as gruesome as it sounds, but it’s just to climb on and jump off of and play around.”

McGinnis said that this is one way to help children be able to have an active place to play at the library and get out their energy.

“Families were coming for story time and then leaving to go play somewhere else,” she said. “So we want to have that as an amenity as well, with our parking and our convenience, it’s nice to have it all in one spot. You can come inside, read a book, come to story time, then go outside, have lunch at the pavilion and play at the park for a while.”

The annual Christmas Movie Marathon will be held on Dec. 23 beginning at 9 a.m. with movies continuing through the library’s closing at 4 p.m.

“We’re going to have a lot of decorations that fall in line with the city’s decor,” McGinnis said. “So there will be some new things to look out [for], which is always fun, a lot of beautiful photo opportunities.

“But it’s a great way to spend time together without the expectation of spending money. So, nothing that we’re doing, outside of fundraisers, is charged. So, our movie marathon, we have popcorn at that, that’s available for free. Our Fa La La Festival, all of the crafts and games are for free. We know that it’s an expensive time of year and we don’t want to be one more place that you have to spend money.”

McGinnis said she enjoys watching families come together with multiple generations.

“Grandparents might come in town and the kids are excited to show off their space to their families,” she said. “So maybe parents who are typically at work have more vacation time or grand-parents, or aunts and uncles are in town, and they come to the library and they say, ‘look at my place.’

“Kids really see the library as their space, and we encourage that and it’s just wonderful and very heartwarming for me to see the ownership that our families have over the library.”

For photos turn to A9.