Contributions needed for Elizabethton Downtown Christmas Lighting Program

By Rozella Hardin

STAR STAFF

   It's almost Christmas time -- time for Elizabethton to put on her holiday best in the way of decorations and lights. The Elizabethton Christmas Parade -- Nov. 17 -- is only a month and a few days away.
   This year, $5,000 is needed for the Downtown Christmas Lighting Project according to Harvey Anderson, committee chairman.
   "We are not going to add new displays because of our financial conditions. We are planning to have the Pepsi wagon on the Elk Avenue Bridge again this year, and we hope the choirs will come back this year," Anderson said.
   He said the $5,000 will enable the committee to complete the fourth year of a five-year program. "We also hope to keep the lights on the bridge burning year-round from dark until midnight," he added.
   Anderson said, "This year we are facing the biggest challenge we have had so far due to the economic conditions of our city and county. We dislike having to ask for contributions, but this is the only way we can keep making our town the most beautiful town in East Tennessee."
   He noted that letters had been sent to attorneys, medical professionals, merchants and churches in the city and county, requesting sizable donations. "We are also placing containers in various business places, and hope people will show their appreciation for the lights by dropping a donation into the containers before Christmas," he said.
   The idea of Christmas lights for Elizabethton began in December 1997, when the City Council agreed to place money in the 1998 budget for lights. The county was also asked to participate and responded favorably. Harvey Anderson, who at that time was a member of the Council, was chosen to head the project. Appointed to a committee to help him were Richard Tester, Joe Alexander, Cleo Reed, Charlie Stahl, Phil Isaacs, Larry Verran, Barbara Treadway, Joe Ledford, Dale Fair, John Bryant, Tracy Behrer, Robin Lyons and Rev. Harold Mains. As members move or drop out, new committee members are added; the newest being Florence Presson and Arklie Hooten.
   The committee put into play a plan of action that would include adding lights each year for five years. The first year, 75 lights were placed on poles on Elk Avenue and E Street. Sponsors were acquired for the displays and recognized with a metal sign near the display.
   Anderson said a contract was signed with Charlie Rottenberry, owner of Tri-City Decorating Co., who agreed to sell the City the lights and displays, put them up and take them down, and store and maintain them yearly. As his contribution, he placed a Christmas tree in the Pine Street Park.
   "Last year, it was unbelievable at the number of people who came to see the lights. This hasn't happened in 20 years, other than to watch the lighting of the Fraser Fir, which is spectacular within itself," said Anderson.
   He noted that there were visitors from all over East Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina, who passed through to see the lights. "Also, there were several families from Florida who passed through," he said.
   During the holiday season, Pepsi has provided a wagon and free popcorn and candy have been given to visitors.
   Anderson said that last year several downtown merchants stayed open late on Friday and Saturday nights during the holiday season. "Another positive addition to the program last year were the church choirs that sang," he said.
   Individuals who would like to make a donation to the lights may contact Anderson at 542-6132 or Joe Alexander at 543-2221. "Persons who would like to make a contribution in honor of a loved one or in memory of someone are invited to do so," Anderson said.
   Also, businesses or groups that would like to purchase a display or ideas about improving the program are asked to contact Anderson or Alexander. "We are also open to new members," Anderson said.
   Checks may be made payable to the Holiday Lighting Fund. They can be dropped off or mailed to Alexander Insurance Agency, 612 E. Elk Ave., Elizabethton, TN 37643.