Elizabethton Christmas tree turned on Thursday night

John Thompson • Updated Nov 15, 2017 at 10:01 AM

ELIZABETHTON — The Christmas season officially began on Tuesday evening in Carter County with the 29th annual lighting of the Fraser fir in downtown Elizabethton.

A large crowd stood around the tree and packed the closed-off section of East Elk Avenue from the Veterans Monument to U.S. Highway 19E. The sunny late afternoon gave way to a chilly early evening. The hot cider offered to the crowd by the Friends of Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park was a popular drink during the event.

Chris Hitechew, president of the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce, was the master of ceremonies for Tuesday’s event. Hitechew described the history of the event and the Henderson Folsom House. He described how the Folsom Family went to Roan Mountain for an outing and brought two fir trees down the mountain. He said one of the pair still stands more than a century later and is now the community Christmas tree.

Hitechew said the tree has been recently measured and was found to still be growing. The tree was formerly listed as being 78 feet tall. He said it is now 86 feet tall and is the tallest Fraser fir in Tennessee, as well as the tallest decorated Christmas tree. It is the second-tallest Fraser fir in the world.

One of the most popular parts of the Christmas tree lighting tradition is a medley of songs and Christmas carols sung by the Elizabethton High School Choir, led by Debbie Gouge.

A candlelighting ceremony was held by the University of Tennessee Extension 4-H Club.

The honor of lighting the tree this year went to the staff of the Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library. Hitechew said the library was given the honor because of all the support it provides the community with programs for both adults and children. At the same time the lights on the Christmas tree came on, the lights on the “Merry Christmas” and the Christmas tree signs atop Lynn Mountain came on, spreading the message throughout the community that it was now the Christmas season.

Following the lighting, there was more songs by the Elizabethton High School Chorale Group with Miss Carter County Peyton Wilson.

The night ended with the firing of a rifle salute to the Christmas season by the Washington County Regiment of the North Carolina Militia.

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