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Holiday events sure to bring crowds and traffic to Asheville this weekend

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11/18/2011 - Holiday events sure to bring crowds and traffic to Asheville this weekend
by Tony Kiss - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- Two popular holiday events combined with a hot new movie seem certain to pull big crowds and clog streets this weekend.

A crowd of 3,500 or more is expected tonight at Biltmore Park for the annual Holiday Lighting Celebration, set for 6-9 p.m. About the same time, a big crowd will head to the Biltmore Grande cinema to see the new "Twilight" movie, "Breaking Dawn." That could lead to heavy traffic along Interstate 26 at the Long Shoals Road exit leading to the development.

Another big turnout is expected downtown Saturday morning for the 65th annual Asheville Holiday Parade.

Biltmore Park is adding police officers and members to its "courtesy patrol" to handle the extra visitation, said spokeswoman Sarah Davis. "I would recommend coming an hour early," she said. "Last year (the holiday lighting) was on opening night for the new 'Harry Potter.' We are hoping it will be really busy."

"Breaking Dawn" will play 43 times daily this weekend at three local cinemas, but the Friday-Saturday night showings always draw the biggest turnout. One 7:30 p.m. screening at the Biltmore Grande is already sold out, but tickets remain for many other showings there. The movie is also playing at the Carmike and the Carolina Asheville theaters.

For the tree lighting, Santa will arrive at at 6 p.m. Biltmore Park in a horse-drawn carriage. At 7, he'll lead a countdown to the lighting of a 25-foot tree in front of the Barnes and Noble bookstore. The night also includes holiday caroling.

A second traffic crunch could happen Saturday morning leading up to the Asheville Holiday Parade. Street closings begin at 9 a.m. The parade will roll from the foot of Biltmore Avenue to Pack Square and down Patton Avenue to French Broad Avenue. All streets intersecting that route will be closed to traffic until the parade is passed.

Biltmore Avenue could be reopened by 12:30 p.m., but the entire route will likely be clear by 1 p.m. Parking is available at the city garages at Wall Street, Rankin Avenue, the Civic Center, a lot next to the AT&T building on O. Henry Avenue, a garage at the Buncombe County Hea lth Department and elsewhere.

Asheville's city bus system will operate on all routes, Saturday although some downtown stops will be blocked for the parade. Routes impacted by the parade are 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18, 26, and 170. Passengers should plan on catching the bus at the city transit station.

What: Holiday Lighting Celebration.
When: 6-9 p.m. tonight.
Where: Biltmore Park.
What: 65th annual Asheville Holiday Parade
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Parade begins at the foot of Biltmore Avenue, runs onto Patton Avenue at Pack Square, and ends at French Broad Avenue

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