The mood was festive despite the chilly and wet weather. Then the Elizabethton High School Choir climbed a set of risers and began singing “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” and very soon the entire downtown really did look a lot like Christmas.
Tuesday was the appointed day to once again flip the switch on the Christmas lights that are strung up and down the 78-foot-tall Fraser fir that grows on the Henderson Home, which now houses the University of Tennessee Extension Office for Carter County.
The event always draws a happy crowd that spans the ages from one-month-olds under double and triple blankets to 90-year-olds enjoying the start of yet another Christmas season.
Once again, the crowd counted down as this year’s appointed tree lighter, Joe Alexander, prepared to flip the switch.
Alexander is an insurance agent who has his office downtown, in the building that once held the telephone switchboard in the days before cell phones. He is also extremely community spirited and a member of the Rotary Club and other organizations dedicated to improving the community. He has worked for two years making sure the Christmas lights throughout downtown are being rewired and renovated.
Because of his many good works, this is the second time Alexander has been asked to turn the lights on. The first time, a few years ago, he declined the offer.
“I feel there are an awful lot of people who are working for the good of this community who just don’t get any recognition,” Alexander said. Those are the ones he feels should be picked to turn the lights on. In fact, he recommended one such person when he declined, who did get the honor to turn on the lights. Unexpectedly, the man died a short time later. Everyone was so glad the man received that honor before his death.
For the tree really is a very big deal in Elizabethton. Chris Hitechew, chairman of the Board of the Elizabethton Chamber of Commerce, told the audience that it is the tallest Fraser fir in Tennessee and the second tallest in the world. The Fraser has been judged as a perfect tree to turn into a Christmas tree, and Elizabethton is proud to accomodate.
This Christmas tree is so tall that it can be seen through a lot of downtown Elizabethton. An even more spectacular view of the tree can be seen at night by driving into town on U.S. Highway 19E from Bristol. As the highway approaches Elizabethton, it starts down a hill toward the Watauga River.
While still coming down the hill, pull onto the shoulder just as the downtown comes into view. There are lots of trees in this view, but there is only one 78-foot tall Christmas tree, shining its Merry Christmas greeting to everyone coming from the north, whether from Bristol or from the North Pole.