WEST JEFFERSON — While wet weather threatened to throw off the kick off ceremony for the 33rd Annual Christmas in July Festival, everything went off without a hitch.
The festivities started at 3 p.m., with Alex Key and the Locksmiths taking the stage as the first band of Christmas in July and were followed by Restless from 5 to 6 p.m.
Around 6 p.m., the VFW Honor Guard and a group of Civil War reenactors greeted the crowd who had gathered to experience the food, music and festivities.
LifeStore Director of Marketing Judy Current was the first to take the stage, welcoming everyone and introducing Leah Privette of the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce to sing the National Anthem. That was followed by a volley of fire from the Union and Confederate soldiers and a playing of “Taps.”
Next was Philip McMillan, the Chairman of the Christmas in July Committee. McMillan thanked everyone for coming out in spite of the sub-optimal weather and spoke about the festival itself.
“The festival is put on by the Christmas in July Committee, which works in partnership with the town and the local chapter of the North Carolina Christmas Tree Growers Association,” McMillan said. “That was the original reason for Christmas in July to begin with, to celebrate the Christmas tree industry.”
Ashe County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director and Christmas in July Committee member Kitty Honeycutt was the next introduced.
“We are so very glad you are here. The first thing I want to do is give you a warm welcome from the Christmas in July Committee and the Ashe County Chamber,” Honeycutt said. “This festival began 33 years ago, and our festival is rich in tradition and local heritage and we are so glad that you’re with us.”
Honeycutt gave a shout-out to U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx and N.C. Sen. Deanna Ballard, who were on-hand for the festivities. Shortly after, a skirmish broke out courtesy of the Civil War reenactors, peppering Honeycutt’s words with some gunpowder. She continued on, speaking highly of the Christmas tree industry of Ashe County and its farmers, before welcoming the night’s most famous guest.
Riding down the hill of West Main Street was Santa and Mrs. Claus, on the back of an old fire engine. The pair made their way to the front of the stage, where they together welcomed everybody in attendance and wished them a merry Christmas in July.
Closing out the night’s festivities were the Lucky Strikes and Blue Country. Blue Country were the final band of the first night last year’s festival as well.
More Christmas in July festivities, including live music, local vendors, Civil War reenactors and the Best of the Best Christmas Tree Competition will continue in downtown West Jefferson Saturday, July 6, starting at 9 a.m.