In his first year as county mayor, Ed Mitchell surprised longtime Blount County resident Clara Peals with an award that made her glow almost as brightly as the Christmas trees at the Blount County Courthouse’s Festival of Trees.
Mitchell presented Peals with the Pride of Tennessee Award. “This person is very special to me. It goes to a citizen who has a history with community involvement and has always worked for the betterment of Blount County,” he said.
As area school children prepared to sing, Mitchell called Peals up to the podium on the steps of the courthouse. He praised Peals for serving on the board of the Everett Senior Center and the Blount County Historic Trust. “Anytime there’s something to do as far as fundraising, Clara is there,” he said. “She’s the first one there and the last to leave.”
Peals said she was surprised by the honor. “I was overwhelmed really,” the retired realtor said.
After honoring Peals, the mayor and Jackson Millsaps, son of Blount Today advertising director Marty Millsaps and his wife Kristie, threw the symbolic switch turning on all the lights of the Christmas trees that decorated the lawn.
Assistant Parks and Recreation director Cookie Crowson said there are 35 trees decorated by individuals, organizations or businesses. The trees will remain lit throughout the holiday season. “I enjoy watching the creativity come out,” she said. “It’s all about creativity. This community looks forward to the Hometown Christmas events.”
Crowson said the Hometown Christmas event at the courthouse brings the community together to have fun and fellowship. “Everyone is here and having a blast,” she said. “It’s about being here and bringing folks together.”
Tammy and Mike Stephens were at the event with daughters Savannah, 7, and McKenzie, 12. “It’s something that we’ve done for years,” Tammy Stephens said.
Suzanne and Wendell Poole were at the courthouse with grandson Landon Harrell. “I’ve never gone to see it,” she said. “This is my first time, and I love it.”
Tim Kumes was at the tree lighting with his wife Taiya and their children, Avery, 6, and Camryn, 2. “It is a great way to showcase the community,” he said. “You can see why people are driving to Maryville and Alcoa. It’s because of events like these.”
Avery showed off the Christmas tree her Daisy Troop 252 decorated. “It’s really pretty because we worked together as a team,” she said. “That is what Daisy’s do.”