by Susan Shinn
The holidays are a time to celebrate family traditions. Officials at Charlotte Motor Speedway are hoping you’ll create a whole new tradition when they open the big, oval racetrack and infield for the inaugural Carolina Christmas on Monday, Nov. 22.
For $20 a carload, visitors can drive through a 2.5-mile winter wonderland, featuring more than 500 light displays and more than 1 million LED lights.
Carolina Christmas will open every night – from 6 to 10 p.m. – through Jan. 2. But, amazingly, the energy-efficient lights will use the same amount of energy as just 10 households over the 42-night schedule, according to Cathy Hein, the speedway’s communications manager.
Another “green” aspect of the event is a synthetic skating rink, which requires no water and no refrigeration.
Then, there’s the “green” of the dollars the event will bring to the region. Miller Davis, the marketing company partnering with the speedway, estimates the McAdenville-like extravaganza could attract 250,000 visitors who will spend some $10.2 million.
Mike Miller, president of Miller Davis, expects visitors from within a 100-mile radius of the speedway, although they’ve already gotten calls from as far away as Ohio and Pittsburgh.
Hein expects the event will attract a good mix of race fans and families. It’s a family event that just happens to take place at the speedway, she said. “The track is here. We might as well do something with it.”
Miller has toyed with the idea of Carolina Christmas for about 15 years but couldn’t find the right location in Rowan County, where his company is based. Talks with the speedway began in January. “It is the perfect venue for this,” Miller said.
On Nov. 13, officials with Miller Davis and the speedway held a casting call for Santa, Mrs. Claus and a host of elves.
Carolina Christmas becomes part of the “Christmas Corridor” linking the speedway and Concord Mills. The two plan to cross-promote, with more than 90 pole banners in the area and 20 billboards advertising the event.
“Word-of-mouth will grow the momentum of this event,” Miller said.
Visitors can expect to see a wide range of light displays, including Toyland, Candyland, Fairy Tale Lane, Victorian Village, the 12 Days of Christmas, Rudolph’s Flight School and The Night Before Christmas.
Lowe’s is sponsoring Patriotic Alley, paying tribute to members of America’s Armed Forces.
In the Lights-to-Music display, you can tune your vehicle’s radio to a specified FM station to enjoy 16,000 square feet of animated LED net lighting synchronized to Christmas music.
In the infield, visitors will have the opportunity to stroll through a festival of trees, a live nativity scene and Bethlehem Village, where basket weaving, candle making and blacksmithing will take place.
More than 30 actors and a host of animals will greet visitors nightly. You can have your picture made with Santa and see the elves hard at work in Santa’s Live Elf Workshop, thanks to help from local master craftsmen. Carolina Christmas is creating 80 seasonal jobs, Davis said.
Visitors can buy coffee and hot chocolate at a café and shop in the Christmas gift shop. Carriage rides also will be available.
The LED display is one of the world’s largest, Miller said. “It’s gonna be awesome.”
Want to go?
Carolina Christmas takes place nightly from Monday, Nov. 22, to Jan. 2, from 6 to 10 p.m. Admission is $20 per vehicle, with group rates available. Find more information online at www.visitcarolinachristmas.com.