Fraser fir lighting, raising of huge flag scheduled Tuesday evening

By Rozella Hardin

STAR STAFF

   The Christmas season has officially opened in Elizabethton with the annual holiday parade downtown Saturday. Come Tuesday evening, even more holiday events are on tap.
   The 13th lighting of the Fraser fir will be held. The lighting ceremony will begin at 5:30 p.m., and the switch turning the lights on will be thrown at 6 p.m. by Keith Hart, Carter County UT Extension Agent, who has been instrumental in the lighting of the tree since its beginning. Hart oversees the maintenance of the tree, which is located on the lawn of the local UT Agricultural Extension Office on E. Elk Avenue across from the Courthouse.
   The program will also feature the Elizabethton High School Girls Ensemble under the direction of Debbie Gouge and the annual rendition of "O Christmas Tree" by Loretta Bowers Newton, a hometown favorite.
   The Fraser fir has been designated the community Christmas tree and the lighting of it has become an annual event.
   The tree is the largest Fraser fir in the state of Tennessee, standing 18 feet tall with a spread of 8 feet and 5 inches. It may be the second largest in the nation.
   The tree was planted by Major Henderson Folsom, who in 1861 built the two-story white clapboard house which now serves as the local UT Extension Office.
   Major Folsom according to family members planted two trees -- one on each side of the walkway leading from the street to the house. Unfortunately, one of the trees died. The Major, an attorney, was the only commissioned officer in the Confederacy from Carter County.
   The tree was initially decorated with 12 one-thousand feet strands of white lights. This year, the lights on the tree -- a total of 2,410 -- were replaced.
   Also taking place immediately after the lighting of the tree, will be the raising of a 30-foot by 60-foot flag near the train site at the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce.
   Four trumpeters from Happy Valley High School will be stationed on the balcony of the Alfred Moore Carter House, and once the tree is lighted, a spotlight will be turned on the trumpeters, who will play the National Anthem. The huge flag will be hoisted by a crane, loaned by PSG, and hopefully will be flown throughout the holidays. The flag will be lighted at night, courtesy of the Elizabethton Electric System.
   "We have put extra weight in the bottom of the flag -- 100 pounds of chain links. The flag will be attached to a 2000-pound bar held by the train," said Bob Cable, who along with Ron McCloud is heading the flag project. "Hopefully, the PSG crane will be available throughout the holiday period," Cable said.
   The huge flag, which was on display for a brief period of time in October, was purchased from a flag center in Richmond, Va., for $3,200. "It sure will be a beautiful sight," said Cable, who owns a downtown business.