The centerpiece for the weekend will be the Annual Elizabethton/Carter County Christmas Parade, which will proceed through downtown Elizabethton. The parade will once again start at 6 p.m. and will go down East Elk Avenue from the intersection with North Lynn Avenue to the Veterans Monument.
This year’s parade will feature about 90 units, including six marching bands. Those bands come from Cloudland, Elizabethton, Hampton, Happy Valley, and Unaka high schools and the middle school at T.A. Dugger.
There will be plenty of unique floats inspired by the parade’s theme for this year: “Classic Christmas Stories.” Those who entered floats in this year’s parade were encouraged to decorate them in the theme of their favorite Christmas book or story.
The grand marshals of this year’s parade will be the book bus programs from both the Carter County School System and the Elizabethton City School System.
Of course, the highlight for every boy and girl will be the arrival of Santa Claus. As has been his custom for generations of children attending the parade, he will ride through downtown on an Elizabethton Fire Department ladder truck.
The parade will be staging in the large parking lot in front of Farm Bureau. It will disperse from Cat Island Park.
There will be plenty of do in the afternoon before the parade starts. The Elizabethton Parks and Recreation Department will set up an old fashioned Christmas village on the grounds of the Covered Bridge Park. The park will be open from 2-5 p.m. to accommodate the families waiting for the parade to start.
It will feature a village with several houses and other buildings designed to bring about the feeling of being in a Currier and Ives Christmas print. There will also be Christmas music and free hot chocolate and cookies. Santa Claus will be waiting for his ride downtown by hanging out at the Covered Bridge Stage from 2-4 p.m., where good little boys and girls can discuss Christmas gift suggestions with him. The children’s visit with Santa Claus is free. Photographs will be taken of each visit and may be purchased by parents for $5.
The event is sponsored by the Elizabethton/Carter County Parks and Recreation Department and the Northeast Community Credit Union.
Unfortunately, rain is in the long-range forecast for Saturday. If it does rain, the Christmas Village in Covered Bridge Park won’t be held. But one event that will take place whatever the weather brings will be the Elizabethton Kiwanis Club Chili Dinner.
It promises to warm the spirits and stomachs of those waiting for the parade. Chili Master Tim Broyles will once again prepare the meal. It will be served at First Christian Church, just a block from the parade route. Tickets are $5 and may be purchased at the door. The chili may be eaten inside or taken out, and will be sold from 4-7 p.m.
For those who would like to experience an even older spirit of Christmas before the parade, Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park is offering tours of the Carter Mansion decked out in 18th century Christmas style. The house won’t open for tours until 6 p.m., which is when the parade starts, but it will also be open for tours on Friday from 6-9 p.m.
Admission is $7 for adults and $3 for children from 7 to 17. Children 6 and under are admitted free. Online registrations can be made at: http://tnstateparks.com/parks/events/sycamore-shoals/.
Another event, the Annual Milligan College Christmas Concert, will take place at the Mary B. Martin Auditorium in Seeger Chapel. Like the Carter Mansion Christmas event, it goes for two days. The Saturday portion conflicts with the parade. The concert will also be presented Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m.
“The annual Christmas concert allows Milligan music students and faculty to give the gift of wonderful music in a beautiful setting to the community,” said Kellie Brown, professor of music.
The concert will feature choirs, orchestra, brass choir and the organ, as well as a carol sing-along.
“I love when all of the lights are off and the audience holds up their candles to sing ‘Silent Night,’ ” Brown said. “There is a wonderful spirit in the entire concert, a worshipful approach to the start of the Christmas season.”
An offering with a suggested donation of $5 will be taken to benefit the college’s department of music.