Secretary of State Mark Martin invites the public to attend the State Capitol Lighting Ceremony Dec. 3.
“I’m honored to continue the tradition of lighting the State Capitol for Christmas in Arkansas,” Martin said. “I hope people of all ages will join us for the ceremony after the parade in downtown Little Rock.”
Martin announced that Craig O’Neill, the popular anchor of Channel 11, Today’s THV, will emcee the event.
The tradition dates back to 1938, when then-Secretary of State Crip Hall decided to light the Capitol as a gift to young patients at the Arkansas Children’s Infirmary – now Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
Subsequent Secretaries of State continued the lighting ceremony, expanding or simplifying it over the years. This year marks the seventy-third anniversary. Representatives from Arkansas Easter Seals participate in the event in tribute to its historic purpose.
“I’m looking forward to meeting this year’s Easter Seals representatives,” Martin said. “The crowd will help Craig O’Neill with the countdown, and the representatives will help me flip the ceremonial switch to light the Capitol.”
Other special guests will be the Arkansas Thunder drum and bugle corps, which will open the ceremony, and penguins Laura and Samson from the Little Rock Zoo.
“Our winter quarter exhibit at the Capitol will be A Plethora of Penguins, and having Laura and Samson at the lighting ceremony will be a great way to open that exhibit,” Martin said.
After the ceremony, Santa Claus will visit with children in the Capitol Rotunda during performances by Arkansas vocal groups Top of the Rock and Diamond State Chorus.
Festivities begin at dusk, following the Big Jingle Jubilee Holiday Parade sponsored by the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“I invite everyone to come inside to view the decorations, visit Santa and listen to the performances,” Martin said. “We’re continuing the Capitol’s ‘Century of Service’ theme from this spring by adopting a 1911 look for the decorations.”
He added, “We’re also reviving the tradition of having the Christmas tree on the first floor, rising into the Rotunda well. I’m excited and think Arkansans will enjoy having the tree visible from all floors of the Capitol.”
Activities continue around the Capitol after the Dec. 3 lighting ceremony, Martin said. From Monday, Dec. 5, until Friday, Dec.16, choirs from around the state will perform Christmas songs in the Rotunda. Schedules will be posted on the Secretary of State’s website, www.sos.arkansas.gov.
On Wednesday, Dec. 7, a 3 p.m. reception in the Rotunda will honor Arkansas’s survivors of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
The Secretary of State’s office will host a toy drive on Dec. 8 and 9 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Donation boxes will be in the first-floor Rotunda beside the Christmas tree. The drive will benefit Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
“This is the season of giving,” Martin said. “We want to echo the spirit of Crip Hall’s gift to the children at the hospital by making this Christmas extra special for them.”