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The Kirby File: Organizers hoping for 5,000 to attend ‘A Dickens Holiday’ downtown


Organizers of “A Dickens Holiday” are anticipating as many as 5,000 people converging on downtown today for the 24th annual post-Thanksgiving gathering that has become a Fayetteville tradition to kick off the holiday season.

“I hope 5,000 people show up,” says Elaine Kelley, co-chairperson of the event (along with Dr. Hank Parfitt), being presented by the Downtown Alliance of merchants. The event is scheduled from 1 to 9 p.m., with “Queen Victoria” gathering holiday-goers at 5:15 p.m. at the Fayetteville History Museum and leading a candlelight procession to the Arts Council of Fayetteville-Cumberland County building for lighting of the Christmas tree.

“It’s going to be a good time,” says John Malzone, who again will be the master of ceremonies, aka town crier, since “A Dickens Holiday” began.


The Arts Council of Fayetteville-Cumberland is out of the post-Thanksgiving holiday festival business after creating much controversy in 2022, when it dropped support of “A Dickens Holiday” in favor of “Holidays On Hay … A Season of Light,” a drone light show. And that decision had much to do with “A Dickens Holiday” not being inclusive to all ethnicities. Bob Pinson, president and chief executive officer for the Arts Council, tells our Paul Woolverton the Arts Council now will concentrate more on education, grant-making and community outreach. A poor decision by the Arts Council in 2022, and one without merit. A good decision on the part of the Arts Council this year. To steal a familiar phrase from the town crier of today’s Dickens event, “You may cheer!”


“We’ll be adding more touches in the coming days,” says Bianca Shoneman, chief executive officer and president of the Cool Spring Downtown District. Shoneman is among those decorating the Market House for the Christmas holidays.

A 40-year old man is found deceased in front of a home on the 800 block of Broadmore Drive in west Fayetteville just before midnight on Nov. 21, according to a Fayetteville Police Department news release, after officers responded to a report of shots fired for what is the 46th city homicide of 2023 — two more than the 44 homicides in 2022. If you have knowledge of the homicide and wish to remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at http://fay-nccrimestoppers.org or by calling (910) 483-9477. Or you may contact Detective A. Wolford at (910) 705-2141.


Cumberland County Schools is partnering with the Fayetteville Police Department for a series of meetings to bring awareness for youth and their parents about gun violence in the community.

“In today’s world, educating our youth about the dangers of gun violence is not just a matter of responsibility — it’s a matter of urgency,” Marvin Connelly, schools superintendent, tells City View Today. “These community events represent our commitment at Cumberland County Schools to foster a safe and informed environment where students and families can engage in critical conversations. By partnering with the Fayetteville Police Department, we’re taking a proactive approach to prevention, and we are equipping our students with the knowledge to make safer choices. We believe that awareness is the first step towards change, and we invite all families to join us in this important dialogue.”

The first meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Gray’s Creek High School, according to a county schools news release. A second meeting is scheduled Thursday at Seventy-First High School. Meetings also are scheduled for Pine Forest High School on Feb. 8, Cape Fear High School on Feb. 22, Douglas Byrd High School on March 7 and Terry Sanford High School on March 21. An “Educating Kids About Gun Violence 2” team of police officers and detectives will lead the discussions designed for youth grades 6 through 12.


A wave of downtown vandalism with spray-painted graffiti, offensive and vulgar language and swastikas to include Unity Tabernacle Church on Gillespie Street, other buildings and vehicles results in charges of four young men ages 21 to 18, with two arrested and two still at large. One was booked on a $65,000 secured bond. Now, was it worth it? What did this inexcusable vandalism accomplish? Here’s your answer: nothing. Absolutely nothing.


If you plan to construct an all-purpose event center in the Judge E. Maurice Braswell Cumberland County Courthouse parking lot, you better have a plan for event parking. And that’s just what the county will do, according to a news release, with County Commissioners voting to approve a parking deck behind the courthouse and Cumberland County Law Enforcement Center. The proposed parking deck comes at an estimated cost of $33 million, the release says, and will stand six stories high and accommodate 1,100 parking stalls. The proposed event center will replace the Crown Theatre and Arena on U.S. Business 301 that is scheduled to close Oct. 31, 2025.


Larry Chason’s gospel music soloist voice is like a fine wine. It just becomes better and better with time, and this community is fortunate to have a talent like Larry Chason.


Richard Butler Jr., choral music director at Jack Britt High School, is recipient of the North Carolina High School Choral Director of the Year award, according to a Cumberland County Schools news release, and Jack Britt principal Scott Pope is recipient of the North Carolina Music Educators Association Administrator of the Year honor.

“These recognitions are not just awards,” says Carla Crenshaw, director of Arts Education for Cumberland County Schools. “They are a reflection of the vibrant culture of artistic expression and support within CCS. Our educators are not merely teaching the arts, they are igniting a passion for creativity that is recognized across North Carolina.”

Additionally, seven elementary students from the school system received honorable mention recognition at the recent North Carolina School Boards Association Conference.


Bill Smith lived a full life, and among his many accomplishments was the countless medallions he earned competing in the N.C. Senior Games. I know, because he spent many days coming to my home and sharing his love for competing in the senior athletic events, where basketball was one of his notable skills into his 70s and 80s. He was devoted to his family and wife of nearly 70 years and devoted to Snyder Memorial Baptist Church as a deacon, Sunday morning greeter and with the church’s Habitat for Humanity program. An Army veteran, William Earl “Bill” Smith was 96 when he peacefully died on Nov. 15.

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961.