By Jessica Isaacs | [email protected]
Located just 30 miles from Boone, Ashe County, the most northwestern of North Carolina counties, is home to a successful, nationally renowned Christmas Tree industry, which remains the inspiration for the popular Christmas in July festival that began there nearly three decades ago.
The summer arts festival brings countless visitors to the state’s most northwestern county every year for a celebration of all things art, music and Appalachian culture. West Jefferson is a wonderful place to visit, and, no matter how long you’re in town, you’ll likely find you’d rather stay a little longer.
The flourishing community becomes even more active with festivities, food, art and music when Christmas in July rolls into town. This nonprofit festival, operated entirely on a volunteer basis, is a true labor of love put forth from, by and for the people who make these mountains a great place to be. With everything you’d expect from an arts festival in a larger city and none of the hassle, this annual event is one you don’t want to miss.
“In my opinion, it’s the fact that it’s all juried handmade arts and crafts. We don’t have anything that’s mass produced there. Plus, it’s the wonderful entertainment all day long,” said Kathleen George, who manages the West Jefferson visitors’ center. “I think that’s the draw, plus the coolness of the mountains. People come from other areas of the state where it’s so hot because we’re so much cooler.
“I’ve seen so many festivals that have mass produced things that you could buy anywhere, but here you’re getting something that’s unique and special.”
West Jefferson’s thriving arts scene will take you on a tour of the storied past, rich mountain culture and prized musical traditions for which Ashe County has always been known. Colorful murals blanket the historic buildings that house restaurants, boutiques, galleries and specialty shops that make West Jefferson a great place to visit any time of year. It’s a warm, welcoming place with plenty to explore, and Christmas in July is a great time to get started.
“First of all, being in the mountains of North Carolina in the middle of July is a no-brainer. You’ve got great temperatures and beautiful weather,” said Jane Lonon, executive director of the Ashe County Arts Council. “You’ve got a festival that’s happening on the streets in a unique small town, so folks that are coming for the festival also get to experience the friendliness, the quality of the shops and the art presence in downtown West Jefferson.
“They get to experience the whole persona of West Jefferson — it’s a very unique place with high quality stores and art everywhere. Folks come away feeling like they’ve discovered something special.”
The Christmas in July festival is operated entirely by volunteers, including local community members and the folks behind the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce, the Ashe County Arts Council and the Town of West Jefferson.
You probably won’t see any snow on the ground, but you’ll love the way Ashe County opens its doors, and its hearts, for all to enjoy.
Let’s tour the town and celebrate everything we know and love about the Blue Ridge Mountains at Christmas in July, where the food is delicious, the arts and crafts are incredible, the musical talent will blow you away and kind, smiling faces are in no short supply.
Keep reading for photos, a schedule of events, concert lineups and parking information.
To learn more, visit Christmas in July online.
“Best of the Best” Christmas Tree Competition
Saturday, July 2
People’s Choice! The public will be able to view Christmas trees on display from Ashe County Christmas tree growers and can cast a vote for the “best in show”. The winner to be announced at the end of the festival. Cast your vote on Saturday, July 2nd from 9am-3pm!
Tree Growers Events
Saturday, July 2
Wreath Making Demonstrations: hourly from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Tree Bailing Demonstrations: hourly from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Located at the Backstreet Park behind the food vendors.
Saturday, July 2
Showcasing Our Local Talent!
- 9-10 a.m.- JAM (Junior Appalachian Musicians)
- 10-11:30 a.m.- Dancin’ Debbie’s
- 11:30 a.m.-12 Noon- Taylon Miller
- 12-1:30 p.m.- April’s School of Dance
- 1:30-3 p.m.- Fleet Feet Cloggers
- 3-4 p.m.- Aubreana and Mountain Grace
- 4-5:30 p.m.- Generation eXcellent
- 5:30-6 p.m.- Sierra Worley
*Schedule current as of 6-22-16
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