Fraser fir lighting Tuesday will kick off holiday season
Published 8:55 am Monday, November 16, 2015
Christmas trees are as much a part of Christmas as Santa Claus is.
According to a UT Extension blurb, “By 1900 one in five American families had a Christmas tree, and 20 years later, the custom was nearly universal.”
How do we account for the rise in popularity? Most likely, it was due to electricity.
Christmas trees had gained a following after the 1848 publication of an engraving of Queen Victoria and her family gathered around a decorated tree. New Hampshire’s only president, Franklin Pierce, is credited with setting up the first Christmas tree in the White House in 1853.
Christmas trees are very much a part of the holiday tradition in Elizabethton. Tuesday evening, those wanting to get in on the holiday spirit early will gather in downtown for one reason: To celebrate the holidays with carols, festive lights and each other — and to witness the annual lighting of the Fraser fir.
Festivities will begin at 5:30 p.m. with the Friends of Sycamore Shoals providing hot cider.
The annual lighting not only brings attention to the approaching Christmas season, it also reveals the pride of the community in the remarkable tree that has been growing and thriving in the front yard of the Maj. Henderson Folsom House since the days immediately after the Civil War. The tree is the largest Fraser fir in Tennessee.
The lighting will take place at 6 p.m. with this year’s honorary “lighter,” Angelee Murray, founder of Red Legacy Recovery.
Music will be provided by Ashley Broockman, Miss Watauga Valley, the Elizabethton High School Choral Group, the fifth grade of East Side Elementary School, and the Happy Valley Trumpeters.
A salute will be given by the Washington County Regiment of the North Carolina Militia just after the lighting.
Also participating will be Ken Markland, president of the Chamber board, and Pastor Todd Hallman of First Baptist Church.
The Fraser fir was lighted the first time at Christmastime in 1988. The idea for the lighting was birthed during a conversation at the STAR Office with then UT Agriculture Extension Agent Keith Hart, who enlisted the help of his father-in-law, J.I. Cornett.
Money for the lights was donated by school children, STAR readers, and businesses, some of whom passed the hat among their employees. Within 10 days enough money had been raised to purchase the lights for the tree.
Cornett donated the equipment and manpower to string the lights on the tree.
After that first lighting, the Fraser fir was declared Elizabethton’s Community Christmas Tree. And, today, it is, perhaps, the tallest decorated Fraser fir tree in the world!
The big tree is located on the front lawn of Carter County’s U-T Extension Office. In the beginning it was the home of Major H.M. Folsom, a commissioned officer in the Confederate Army (most of the Tennessee mountain people sided with the Yankees). Major Folsom survived the war, came back home, more or less reconciled with neighbors, and planted a pine tree in his front yard. It was a Fraser fir.
That pine tree has outlived him by a hundred years. Today it stands at about 80 feet and is one of the oldest and tallest living Christmas trees in the United States.
It’s one of our natural treasures, especially at this time of the year when it takes on the character of a lighted Christmas tree.