Unicoi and Erwin are unwrapping a series of new holiday events designed to brighten the spirits throughout the towns.

The town of Unicoi will host Christmas at the Caboose, a drive through holiday light display Saturday, Dec. 12, at the Unicoi Tourist Information and Visitors Center.

The towns of Unicoi and Erwin and Erwin Utilities have teamed up for an all new Erwin Fiber Holiday Lighting Contest to run Saturday-Tuesday, Dec. 12-15.

And in the Unicoi Volunteer Fire Department service district, a generous response to the recently launched Santa Squad Toy Drive has allowed organizers to extend the registration deadline and expand the age eligibility for children to receive toys.

Set for 6-9 p.m. Saturday at the Unicoi Tourist Information and Visitors Center, Christmas at the Caboose will replace the annual Unicoi Christmas Parade, Christmas at the Cabin and Taste of Unicoi Holiday Open House events that were cancelled in response to the pandemic.

The free holiday light show was created by the professional designers at Gabriel’s Christmas in Jonesborough. A Christmas Village will be set up around the town’s Mountain Harvest Kitchen. The Buffalo Pavilion will be transformed into a Snowflake Snack Shack with free Christmas cakes, treats, hot chocolate and family s’mores packs to use at fire pits spread out through the village. And costumed Christmas characters frolicking to the sounds of the season provide the entertainment.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be there in an antique sleigh with some of their favorite reindeer. Kids can stand alongside the sleigh for a professional photo with Santa and drop their letters in his mailbox before catching a stocking delivered to them down a slide from the top of the historic Clinchfield Car 1111 caboose.

Unicoi Mayor Kathy Bullen said each of the town’s traditional holiday events was analyzed for COVID-19 risks before the decision was made to offer Christmas at the Caboose as a safer option.

Guests will be required to wear masks and to social distance while outside of their vehicles. No physical interaction with Santa or other characters will be allowed. And special food handling precautions will be taken.

More information about the event can be found at UnicoiTN.net and on the town of Unicoi page on Facebook.

To make a sponsorship donation or volunteer at the event contact Patricia Bennett at 423-735-0517 or email recreationaide@unicoitn.net.

The Holiday Lighting Contest is being offered through a partnership of Unicoi and Erwin Utilities.

Erwin Utilities will provide the contest prizes through credits on winners’ electric bills — $25 for Best Holiday Theme, $50 for Best Use of Lights, $75 for Best Residential Display and $75 for Best Business Display.

The business category, which made its debut last year in Unicoi, is sponsored by the Unicoi Business Alliance to encourage retailers to create a festive atmosphere for the towns’ residents and guests during the holiday season.

Erwin Utilities President and CEO Lee H. Brown said, “We know that, much like the rest of 2020, traditional holiday festivities will look different for folks this year. We hope that many families and businesses will participate so our community can enjoy the Christmas lights and décor from the safety of their own vehicles.”

The contest is open to all Unicoi and Erwin residents. The deadline to register is Friday, Dec. 11. Entry forms are available at Unicoi Town Hall, 3600 Unicoi Drive, Erwin Town Hall, 211 N. Main Ave.; the Unicoi Tourist Information Center at 106 Unicoi Village Place off Exit 32 and online at UnicoiTN.net/events.

Eligibility for the Santa Squad toy distribution has been expanded to include children age 2-14, and the deadline to register has been extended to Wednesday, Dec. 9.

Recipient children must live within the Unicoi Volunteer Fire Department District. All new applicants will be placed on a waitlist and will only be included in the distribution if notified of their inclusion by a Santa Squad member.

Online registration is available at facebook.com/townofunicoitn, facebook.com/unicoipolice and facebook.com/UnicoiVolunteer FireRescue.

The toy distribution will be held from 1-5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20, at the Tourist Information Center. Participants must remain in their vehicles as toys are delivered to them by Santa Squad volunteers.

For more information about the toy drive or distribution contact Robert Taylor at 423-306-0637 or email haneyuvfd@gmail.com.