Like most of the several hundred people on hand for Elizabeth City’s Grand Illumination ceremony Friday evening, Kate Meads couldn’t wait for the switch to be flipped turning on the downtown Christmas lights.

Unlike everyone else waiting, however, the 2-year-old had the special honor of throwing the switch.

And when she finally did so from the second-floor balcony of the Pasquotank Courthouse around 6:20 p.m., the holiday season in the city’s downtown was officially underway.

“When we got up there, the first thing she wanted to do was flip the switch,” said Kate’s father, Walter Meads. “She said, ‘Let’s flip the switch because I want to get back downstairs.’ She wanted to come back down and be with everybody in the crowd. She did a good job and it was fun.”

Loud cheers and applause echoed up and down Main Street when the lights came on.

Downtown is even brighter and more festive this year as Grand Illumination sponsor Elizabeth City Downtown, Inc., along with Visit Elizabeth City, the city and Pasquotank County, all chipped in $5,000 each to put up additional decorations. Many of the new lights and decorations were placed on and around the courthouse.

Camden resident Clay Rodgers, on hand for Friday’s event, said the additional lights make downtown even more festive. Rogers and his family have been coming to the Grand Illumination event for a number of years and his daughters Kiran and Gina were in the Albemarle Youth Choir that sang several Christmas carols before the lights were turned on.

“The lights are great,” Rodgers said. “It’s a great event where the community can come together. The singing was good, too.”

Many downtown businesses held special events after the illumination, including the showing of the Christmas movie “Craft and Treats” at Zaribel’s on North Water Street, a visit by Santa Claus and his elves at Port Discover, and a hay/sleigh ride around the downtown area. Santa had a busy night: he said he handed out more than 300 candy canes.

Elizabeth City Mayor Bettie J. Parker and Pasquotank County Board of Commissioners Chairman Jeff Dixon both thanked city utility workers and others who put up the decorations.

“I want to thank everyone that helped organize this special event,” Parker told the crowd.

Friday’s Grand Illumination was the first of several holiday events scheduled in the coming weeks.

The Pasquotank River Yacht Club’s annual Christmas Lighted Boat Parade on the Pasquotank River will be Friday from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. City officials say some of the best viewing spots for the parade are at Moth Boat Park and Mariners’ Wharf Park. To register a boat for the parade contact Karen at the Pasquotank River Yacht Club at 331-3355.

Elizabeth City State University’s Christmas concert “Amahl and the Night Visitors” will be Friday at 8 p.m.

Elizabeth City’s annual Christmas Parade will be held on Saturday starting at 5:30 p.m. The theme for this year’s Christmas parade is “Christmas in the River City.” Last year’s parade included 37 floats and marching bands. The parade will follow the same route as previous years, starting on Ehringhaus Street near the Family Dollar store. It will then take a left on Road Street before taking a right on Main Street and then a right on Water Street before ending near Museum of the Albemarle.

Some downtown businesses will be open during the parade with some serving hot chocolate. Five Elizabeth City bed and breakfasts are partnering for an event that will include tours of their houses and refreshments from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Downtown restaurants Cypress Creek Grill, Hoppin’ Johnz New South Cuisine, The Mills Downtown Bistro and Paradiso Roma Ristorante and Ghost Harbor Brewing will offer specials following the parade.

Museum of the Albemarle’s “Christmas at Who-seumville” will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event is a Seussical-style holiday open house with Cindy Lou Who, Santa, children’s train rides, showings of “The Grinch” movie, Grinch crafts, carriage rides, pony rides, a model train of the Albemarle region and Grinch-inspired refreshments.

College of The Albemarle will present performances of “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” Thursday through Sunday, Dec. 12-15, while Arts of the Albemarle will present performances of “A Christmas Carol” Friday through Sunday, Dec. 20-22.

Downtown Jingle Bell carriage rides will be offered Friday and Saturday, Dec. 13-14, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Angel the white Christmas horse will be at The Mills Downtown Bistro with a driver and carriage both nights, ready to offer rides see the downtown’s Christmas lights.