Amanda Delp, executive director of the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the annual night of holiday merriment, said about 10 or 12 people attended the first Christmas Tree lighting in Erwin.
But the community embraced the event, and over the next decade and half the crowd grew to more than 2,000 last year. While Friday night’s rain brought their number down to around 200, washed out the live musicians, the outdoor stage, the fire pits, the roasted marshmallows and most of the craft vendors, there was still plenty of Christmas cheer to go around.
Elizabethton horse traders Mac and Travis Blevins’ old fashioned wagon and Solo the draft horse had kids and adults alike lined up for rides through downtown in the grandest of holiday style. And the loaded down Grand Rental Station kiddie train ran nonstop loops through the post office parking lot.
The Joe Bill’s Kitchen food truck did a swift barbecue business and the funnel cake and deep fried Oreo concession tables stayed busy.
The kids from Community Baptist Church of Jonesborough set up their live nativity scene inside town hall to keep their cardboard animals dry but ventured outdoors to the lead the crowd in a round of Christmas caroling.
With the crowd gathered outdoors, Community Baptist Pastor David Williams read the classic first Christmas story as told in the book of Luke.
And at last, everyone saw what they had had come to see as Mayor Doris Hensley threw the switch and the lights lit up the town’s 30-foot Christmas tree.
With the rain still falling, kids, parents, grandparents and assorted relatives all hurried back into the Town Hall Community Room for a traditional reading of “ ’Twas the Night Before Christmas” and an appearance by the night’s most anticipated Christmas reveler.
With a big red velvet bag packed with teddy bears for about 50 children, St. Nick stayed around to greet them all and hear their Christmas wishes.
Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.