Fraser fir lighting Tuesday evening will kick off city's holiday season

By Rozella Hardin
star staff

  The Sixteenth Annual Lighting of the Fraser fir will be held Tuesday evening, Nov. 26. The lighting ceremony will begin at 5:30 p.m. and the switch to turn on the lights will be thrown at 6 p.m. by Keith Hart, Carter County U-T Agriculture Extension Agency, who oversees the tree's maintenance as well as the lights.
  Also featured will be the Elizabethton City School Choirs and the Cloudland School Choirs. Loretta Bowers Newton, a hometown favorite, will be singing "O Christmas Tree."
  Others on the program include Scott Williams, Chamber president, who will serve as master of ceremonies, and trumpeters from the Happy Valley band, who will play for the flag-raising ceremony immediately following the lighting of the tree. Also, a group from the Watauga Historical Association will perform as a part of the flag-raising ceremony.
  The Fraser fir has been designated the Community Christmas Tree and its lighting has become an annual event. The tree was first lit in 1988 when the Elizabethton STAR, in co-operation with the Chamber of Commerce, the U-T Extension Office and J.I. Cornett, initiated a drive to raise funds to purchase the lights. School children donated their pennies, nickels and dimes. Businesses donated $50 and $100, and STAR readers mailed in donations of $1, $5 and $10. The goal was $1,100 -- the estimated amount needed to light the tree. In less than two weeks, enough money had been donated to light the tree.
  Cornett personally supervised the stringing of the lights on the tree from a large crane owned by his construction company. He was given the honor of throwing the switch to light the tree on that most memorable November night 16 years ago.
  The star atop the tree was donated by the students of West Side School.
  The tree, which stands on the lawn of the Carter County U-T Agriculture Extension Office on E. Elk Avenue, is the largest Fraser fir in the state of Tennessee, standing approximately 78 feet tall with a spread of approximately eight feet and five inches. It may be the second largest Fraser fir in the nation.
  The tree was planted by Major Henderson F. Folsom, who in 1861 built the two-story white clapboard house, which now serves as the U-T Extension Office.
  The lighting of the Fraser fir will formally kick off the holiday season in Elizabethton.
  The second major event will be the downtown Christmas parade on Saturday, Nov. 20, at 5 p.m.