Let there be Christmas light!

Photo By Kristen Luther
Residents assemble in downtown Elizabethton for the annual holiday lighting of the Frazier fir tree.

By Thomas Wilson
star staff

  Hundreds of citizens journeyed to downtown Elizabethton Tuesday evening to watch an event that has become the holiday centerpiece of the town's Christmas season.
  Kids of all ages enjoyed the ceremonial lighting of the giant Fraser fir tree on East Elk Avenue in a holiday ceremony that traditionally kicks off the holiday season in Elizabethton.
  The Elizabethton High School Chorus sang a medley of Christmas carols and a song called "Give Us Peace in Our Time".
  "This is one of the cool things we do," said Debbie Gouge, EHS teacher and chorus instructor. "It is a tradition."
  Gouge instructs the school's 120-member chorus for performances throughout the year. The chorus has performed in the tree lighting ceremony for 16 consecutive years, Gouge said. She added that Tuesday's night's performance brought the entire chorus class together for one performance.
  "This is the first time we'd all be together," she said.
  Students from Cloudland Elementary School's show choir also sang Christmas songs as part of the event. Vocalist Loretta Bowers Newton performed solo versions of seasonal and patriotic songs. She also sang the holiday standard "O, Christmas Tree" as part of the lighting ceremony.
  Police blocked off a portion of East Elk Avenue from Main Street to U.S. Highway 19E. The city's Christmas lighting ornaments and displays have sprung up in recent weeks with snowmen, a horse and buggy, and stars illuminating the downtown area. The Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated next Thursday.
  While the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons are nearing full launch, thousands of Americans likely face another holiday without loved ones.
  Half a world away on Tuesday the U.S. military and Iraqi soldiers launched an offensive in the city of Mosul in Iraq. U.S. military personnel spent last week fighting insurgents house to house in Fallujah during an offensive to root out forces hostile to the United States and the new Iraqi regime.
  Granville Taylor of Stoney Creek said he attended the lighting ceremony to see his granddaughter sing in the chorus and enjoy the holidays, but also remember the blessings of freedom in the United States.
  "We've got something to be thankful for," he said, "namely that we have the freedom that we have here."
  EHS teacher and cross country team coach Jim Presnell who attended the event with family members said the students he works with already understood the state of the world they were entering when they graduated from high school.
  "I think the majority of young people I work with know it is a cruel, hard world out there," he said. "I think a lot of kids have enjoyed the high school experience because they realize college is the step into the real world."