With the arrival of December, festive activities are in full swing for Loudon and Lenoir City.
Lenoir City’s parade and tree lighting will kick off the Christmas season at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Central Park. Visitors will be able to watch as city representatives light the tree and listen to the Lenoir City High School chorus sing four or five Christmas carols.
Zack Cusick, Lenoir City Parks and Recreation Department coordinator, believes the tree lighting could be something special for the city for years to come.
“It’s just community,” Cusick said. “The community is able to come out and enjoy a good festivity. If it was on another night than the parade I think next year we could try to a little bit more, maybe have hot chocolate or some kind of crafts that we’ve done in the past as well or something else more for the community. I think it’s always a good fun event to kind of kick off the season. Every time we can light up Broadway with decorations and things I think it gets the community, the kids, their family, everybody excited.”
Following the lighting, residents are invited downtown for the annual parade, which starts at 6:30 p.m. at C Street through Pike Street. Performances near A Street will begin at 6 p.m.
Lineup for parade entrants will be at 5 p.m., with this year’s theme “12 Days of Christmas.”
“We normally have a few parade floats, about 10-15 parade floats, that want to be a part of the contest,” Cusick said. “So we normally ask them if they want to be a part of the contest they can go ahead and decorate their floats as according to the theme and get as creative as they can, but still sticking to the theme. That way it will continue with the theme of the parade.”
With the theme changing each year, Cusick anticipates there will be creative floats.
“I think that’s the biggest part because our theme changes every year, so some of the groups that come out for it they’ll have to change their floats yearly if they want to participate in the contest,” he said. “I know that’s always a big deal to get and they can get as creative as they can. It definitely helps out with the judges.”
Lenoir City’s Christmas efforts round out with Evening with Santa 6-7:30 p.m. Dec. 12 at the War Memorial Building. Children will be able to write letters to the North Pole and meet Santa for a photo.
“We’ll have cookie decorating, a couple of crafts and then a couple of games for the kids to play as well,” Cusick said.
He said Evening with Santa is a free opportunity for the family.
“It provides a safe, friendly atmosphere for the kids to enjoy some one-on-one time with Santa,” Cusick said. “I know some places you have to pay for a picture, you have to pay to even sit with Santa and that kind of thing. Especially for our close-knit area and community we want to be able to offer something free for the people that might not be able to go to the mall or go somewhere else.”
Loudon’s Christmas programs begin at noon Friday when kindergartners from Loudon, Philadelphia and Steekee elementary schools visit Veterans Park to meet Santa and watch as Loudon Utilities Board employees decorate the tree with ornaments made by students. Decorations were initially planned for Dec. 13, but Mark Harrell, Loudon Parks and Recreation Department director, said the change accommodates a later parade.
Loudon Mayor Jeff Harris tries to attend each year.
“Another good, I guess, outcome of that is they get to see some of our utility employees, they interact with them and it’s kind of a local field trip, I’m sure, for the schools for a good location and a good reason to get the kids together and put their ornaments on the tree,” Harris said. “It’s pretty neat to see them interacting with our city employees as well as they’re down there with parks and rec department and the utilities as well. ... It gets them out and they get to the make the decorations that go on the tree. I’m sure every time they pass by it they let their parents know that they’ve got a decoration on that tree.”
Loudon’s Christmas parade is 6 p.m. Dec. 14, with lineup beginning an hour earlier on Carter Street before heading toward downtown. This year’s theme is “Winter Nights and Magical Lights.”
“It’s just an opportunity for our community people to get out and have a good time,” Harrell said. “It brings joy to children to see all the lights and, of course, they’ll see Santa and see the reason for the season and just celebrate with one another. I think for the first time this year parks and rec will have a float in it, and we hope to also participate in some of the neighboring parades, not promoting our programs or anything, we just want to participate and wish everyone a merry Christmas. It’s just the time for everybody to get out and have a good time.”
Harris said for many the parade is a tradition.
“I think it is for multiple generations and a lot of people go to the same spot,” he said. “They watch the parade from the same location. They meet family members there and it’s kind of a good time to get together, meet at one spot and enjoy the parade and then they may even socialize after that as well.”