The holidays in Charlotte — so quaint, so polite, so precious, so ... predictable. Every December, families from Kannapolis to Fort Mill pack the kids, the grandkids, the grandparents, the snot-nose cousins, the boyfriends and girlfriends, the blankets and Juicy Juice packages into big, fat minivans and drive down to McAdenville in Gaston County — also known as Christmas Town USA. What makes McAdenville so special? Well, it's the nation's seventh most popular Christmas attraction. That means that among all the cheesy holiday attractions featuring yard and house decorations in the whole United States, McAdenville is among the top 10 cheesiest.
In honor of McAdenville's high ranking in the department of annoying holiday attractions nationwide, we at CL decided this year to zoom in on the 10 most annoying local holiday attractions. We are well aware that annoying holiday traditions are not exclusive to Charlotte. Most everyone grew up in towns with at least one or two — and really, the holidays wouldn't be the holidays without a high annoyance quotient. Recall the tacky events your family attended and be glad that, as an adult, you have the right to turn them into conversation-starters with your therapist or drinking games with friends. Or convert to Judaism. Or atheism.
10) Mannheim Steamroller Christmas
(Blumenthal Performing Arts Center)
The first time I saw a Mannheim Steamroller album among my parents' collection in the '80s, I thought it must be something awesome. I mean, the name sounds so METAL. Mannheim Steamroller is so NOT metal. It's new age. It does not have the right to use the word "steamroller." Music with "steamroller" in the title should be big, ugly and noisy. Listen to some Mannheim Steamroller. Sounds like someone gave the guy who writes elevator music a second cup of coffee and now he's going wild. WILD!
To be at a Mannheim Steamroller concert is to be mildly not-bored for an hour and a half. You'll long for the hardcore nature of the Kidz Bop Christmas comp. And God help you if you didn't get the tickets for free in your PBS donor tote bag.
This is an Ambien jam session. You've been warned.
9) Speedway Christmas
(Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord)
NASCAR and Jesus! Yee-haw! Because nothing says Charlotte like NASCAR and making money off religion.
8) Holiday on Ice
(NASCAR Hall of Fame Plaza)
Just the name is one big clusterfuck of a contradiction. Ice-skating? In Charlotte? Outside? At a NASCAR museum? Here's where we can pretend to have a White Christmas without having to wait seven years for an actual White Christmas. It's the attraction where our large number of Yankee immigrants can shine! All those years spent with actual snow and ice allow those folks to take to the ice and show off like elegant penguins. Us Southerners? Because of the food we eat, we are actually shaped like penguins. But we do have the common sense to know that if God had wanted us to be on ice, he'd have given us monster snowmobiles and a higher tolerance for hockey. Instead, he gave us NASCAR.
7) Sexy Santa events
This isn't specific to Charlotte by any means, but seriously, Sexy Santa? Let's break that down. Sexy Morbidly Obese Personification of Commercialism. Sexy Dressed Up Like an Effeminate Swedish Pimp. Sexy Childhood Memory Filtered Through Booze. Ladies in your 20s: If you need a wish-granting figure in your life, go find one. They're called Sugar Daddies. Fellas: If you want someone who might actually have a nice body under a fat suit, go watch Shallow Hal. But seriously: Let's try and keep our childhood memories separated from our adult lechery, OK? Or at least save it for Halloween. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to start planning for next year's Sexy Joe Camel contest.
6) Belk Carolinas' Carrousel Parade
(Tryon Street downtown)
This one's already happened, so if you missed it, thank your lucky stars. If you were there, curse Papa Belk. But as a child, you had to endure it, so your kids should, too. Next year, make them pose for pictures wearing cheesy holiday sweaters and those reindeer antler hats you get at the dollar store. They'll moan and whine and vow to never speak to you again, and you'll be maniacally laughing the whole time, purging yourself of all those awful memories of mom and dad at the Belk Carolina's Carrousel Parade, one camera click at a time. Revenge, Christmas-style.
5) The Nutcracker
How annoying or enjoyable you find this classic ballet depends on where you are in life. Under the age of 10? You eat up this shit like Santa binging on chili-cheese fries after a night of hard egg nog and hookers. Ten to 28? You want to meet that bastard Tchaikovsky in a dark alley and crack his ... well, you get it. Twenty-eight to 80? It's a lovely, seasonal date night that begins with a nice dinner and ends with a discussion on Iran or the fiscal cliff.
4) The Singing Christmas Tree
If you can't get enough Christmas, if you need Christmas, if you would take a bag of ground-up Christmas and rub it on your gums just to make it through the day, this may be the show for you. It's got singers, dancers, puppets, dancing singers and singing puppets. However, there are no singing, dancing puppets. Because that would just be CRAZY! When you walk into your living room after attending this show and your family is sitting in a circle and there's a strange man next to your mom who says everyone loves you and just wants to see you get better, the party is over. Bah-humbug.
3) Southern Christmas Show
(Park Expo and Conference Center)
Consult our checklist before going to this snoozefest:
a) Are you 65+, or 65+ at heart?
b) Do you scrapbook?
c) Do you pee your pants a little at the thought of giving or receiving a scented candle?
d) Do you find Christmas sweaters fashionable or adorable?
e) Do you say things like "My stocking is overstuffed!" or "I have the best fruit cake recipe" or "nog"?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, the Southern Christmas Show is your jam. Calm down — not that kind of jam.
2) Leonard Bearstein Orchestra
It's an orchestra. With bears. Animatronic bears. If you're under 10 or have a child under 10, you may have a reason to go see this. Everyone else, you've seen this before. It was called Chuck E Cheese and at least had video games, pizza and beer.
We have a few suggestions for other holiday animatronic orchestras that are sure to delight. How about The Leonard Cluckhen Symphony, an all-animatronic chicken orchestra that performs "Halle-cluck-yah" and various songs for Yom Kippur. Or The Woody Guthrie Beaver Bash, an all-animatronic beaver orchestra that chews on patriotic songs like "This Land Was Made for Making Dams," for the Fourth of July? Or perhaps The Kanye Kwanzaa Quartet, an all-animatronic orchestra featuring a drunk, robotic Kanye slurring the words to "Jingle Bell, Bitch" and somehow really offending Taylor Swift.
1) Christmas Town USA
Picture this: You, your good-for-nothing kids, your husband, great aunt Pearl (and her never-ending flask of "Christmas Juice"), Uncle Tommy (the one with the flatulence problem) and the family Basset Hound (whose farts rival Tommy's) are all driving down I-85 during the family's annual trek to McAdenville for the pretty lights of Christmas Town USA. Sally, your youngest, won't stop hitting you over the head with a candy cane and little Jimmy is belching "Silent Night." Your husband's snoring in the front seat, oblivious to this hell you are in. You see the lights of Christmas Town USA in the distance, and something inside you clicks. You jerk the wheel, sending the Volvo C30 in a freefall across several lanes and into a ditch. You suddenly come to. A few weeks later, in court, the judge reads your case and acquits you of all charges. Even he knows how crazy McAdenville's Christmas Town USA can make your average suburban housewife.
Graham Odom is a member of the Charlotte sketch comedy troupe Robot Johnson.