Thanksgiving is just a week away, but the plans for a Maryville/Alcoa/Blount County Christmas are debuting before the turkey can waddle to the oven.
Hometown Christmas, sponsored by Maryville/Alcoa/Blount County Parks & Rec, the two cities, the county and Blount Today will once again feature four events: H.O.M.E. for Christmas on Saturday, Nov. 27; Springbrook Splendor on Monday, Nov. 29; Christmas at the Courthouse on Thursday, Dec. 2; and Illumination of the Greenbelt on Monday, Dec. 6.
The major change this year will be found in the format of the Illumination of the Greenbelt, hosted in the past by the city of Maryville. The change is a new format with a different sponsor for one of the segments - the city is doing the tree lighting and children activities. Broadway United Methodist Church is doing the scripture reading, thus allowing for the return of the traditional reading of Luke and the story of the birth of Christ from the Bible.
In 2010, the city of Maryville was criticized after the traditional biblical reading of the story of the birth of Jesus from the Book of Luke was dropped from the Illumination of the Greenbelt, the city’s part of Hometown Christmas. The move was made after a citizen questioned the constitutionality of having a biblical reading at a city-sponsored event, and the city attorney determined that -- while Christmas trees and nativity scenes were allowed -- cases in the U.S. Supreme Court through the years did not allow reading directly from the Bible during a city-sponsored and funded event. Mayor Tom Taylor said that once that information was known, “the city of Maryville was not going to knowingly and willingly violate the law.”
The solution this year is for the first part of the Illumination of the Greenbelt, from 6:30 to 7:15 p.m. to be sponsored by the city of Maryville. Part two, from 7:15 to 7:30 p.m. will be sponsored by Broadway United Methodist Church and will include the scripture reading.
“That is done by permit and is to fulfill what we have to do as a city in order to have the event together,” said Pam Arnett, city of Maryville public information officer.
“The City Council and the community have said this is a tradition they wanted to continue, and they have also said they want it to continue within the parameters we face as city government and that is what we’ve done,” Taylor said.
Taylor said questions came so close to the time of the program last year that the city did not have time to look for alternatives. “We didn’t have time to make really good adjustments, and this year we’ve had an entire year and worked hard and developed something that will retain the holiday tradition.”
The city sponsored part of the program will include Taylor lighting the tree at 6:30 p.m., followed by the “All that Jazz” children’s choir, the adult choir from First United Methodist Church of Maryville and ending with the Maryville Alcoa Blount County Parks and Recreation Youth Dance Group.
“That should all end by 7:15,” Arnett said. “From 7:15 to 7:30 p.m., members of Broadway United Methodist Church are going to do the scripture reading from the passage of Luke, and they will explain some of the symbols of Christmas. Then Parks and Rec takes over the next part at 7:30 p.m. with the Candy Cane Hunt,” Arnett said.
While the children’s activities will be on the lawn below Pistol Creek Station, folks can get a free picture with Santa in the Blount County Public Library rotunda. “Sanitation” Santa will arrive on a city garbage truck decorated especially for the holidays. Visitors are encouraged to donate gifts for teens or pre-teens as part of the Sanitation Santa annual gift drive for the less fortunate.
“We split it into three parts so if people want to leave after the tree lighting, they can,” Arnett said. “We put times to it so people could get an idea of what types of things are taking place so they can choose to come for one part or for the whole activity.”
Arnett said Walker Johnson will return as master of ceremonies. “He’ll introduce the mayor, and the mayor will light the tree.”
H.O.M.E. for Christmas set for Nov. 27
Cookie Crowson, assistant director of Maryville Alcoa Blount County Parks & Rec, said Hometown Christmas is a series of events for the entire community. “The kick-off is Nov. 27 with H.O.M.E. for Christmas at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center,” she said of the Hall Old Field Maryville Empowerment, Inc., a community non-profit.
H.O.M.E. for Christmas is set for 6 to 8 p.m. with lighting of the center’s tree and Festival of Trees set to be displayed on the property.
“The key thing is this is an opportunity for the community to come together,” Crowson said. “Churches and individuals in the community there have started their own mini-festival of trees in the area where the pool used to be,” she said. “They will have a lighting of the center tree and are hoping to grow that whole outdoor area this year and have more participants decorate trees on the lawn.”
Crowson said there will be light refreshments and music and games for the younger children, but the main focus will be the lighting their trees. “If it rains, they will light the trees from indoors,” she said.
Springbrook Splendor planned for Nov. 29
From 6:15 to 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 29, Springbrook Splendor will take place in the upper fields of Springbrook Park. Officials will light the City of Alcoa Christmas tree, and there will be musical performances by Ethan Patterson, Alcoa Elementary School choir, the Alcoa Singers and Becky Watkins accompanied by Hugh S. Livingston, Jr. “Springbook Splendor is so pretty,” Crowson said. “We light the pathways with luminaries and have a visit by Santa who arrives on an Alcoa Fire Department engine and then we’ll have a hayride,” Crowson said. “That was popular last year, and so we have a hayride along a couple streets, and people can sing Christmas carols and visit.”
The raindate for this event is Nov. 30. The times will be the same as for the regularly scheduled event from 6:15 to 7:30 p.m.
Christmas at the Courthouse set for Dec. 2
The third Hometown Christmas event is Christmas at the Courthouse, which will be at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 2, at the Blount County Courthouse. This celebration features the illumination of the Festival of Trees on the front lawn.
“As of today, we have 34 trees,” Crowson said. “They are sponsored by school groups, local businesses and churches from all across the community,” Crowson said. “We’ll light the festival of trees, have holiday music by the Mary Blount Elementary Handbell Choir, and we’ll have a new group this year, the Chilhowee Baptist Association student choir.”
Crowson said that at 7 p.m., all the outdoor music will be over, and there will be refreshments in the lobby of courthouse. “The Maryville High School orchestra ensemble will play while we enjoy warm hot chocolate, cookies and refreshments,” she said.
Outside, Santa Claus will come on a Blount County Fire Department truck. There will also be a hayride at the courthouse.
“We haven’t had a hayride in a long time, but at Alcoa it was so successful, we decided we’ll move the hayride to the courthouse as well,” Crowson said. “The hayride will go down Ellis Avenue and turn at the Farm Bureau parking lot and return. Families can go as a group.”
After the lighting of the trees, the Festival of Trees will be illuminated nightly until Jan. 3.