By Elly Murray
Get ready for Christmas in July this Saturday, July 7! This event is one of the High Country’s most unique and inspirational Fourth of July celebrations, and this is the 32nd year this astounding event has occurred.
The festival itself was originally created 32 years ago to celebrate the Christmas tree industry. Jane Lonon, the Executive Director of the Ashe County Arts Council, explains that, “The Christmas Tree Association wanted a way of showing off and showcasing the trees that they had. So that tradition has continued, and each year there are a variety of different events that take place in partnership with the Christmas Tree Growers Association, to celebrate the trees.”
The festivities kick off on Friday night, with Main Stage music performances from 3 p.m. until 10 p.m, with a new band every hour. They have 13 unique Main Stage bands this summer, and Lonon is excited that, “The bands at night will also include space and opportunity for people to dance.”
The Main Stage performers will return on Saturday from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m., as well as the Community Stage performers. Lonon describes these performers as, “more youth focused and local focused. Several of our local dance schools will have slots for their students to perform. The Junior Appalachian Musicians program (JAM) will be performing, and then a couple of other local bands. There will probably be about six or seven different groups performing on the community stage.”
The food vendors will be ready to go around 4 p.m. on Friday, and they’ll feature classic street/festival foods, including funnel cake, bloomin’ onions, hamburgers and hotdogs, sausages, cotton candy, and ice cream.
The Farmers’ Market vendors also open up Friday night; they have their produce and agricultural vendors from 4-8 on Friday, and then their craft vendors all day Saturday.
The Christmas in July Festival has over 100 craft vendors scheduled to attend this year, and they’re all selling a wide variety of different art forms. Lonon says that, “We try to balance out between fine arts, sculpture, pottery, woodworking, fiber arts, some literary arts. It’s a nice balance.”
In addition to being an incredibly great place to support our local artists and dance your tail off to some exceptional music, the Christmas in July Festival also has multiple little events for kids. There’s a whole section of the festival grounds dedicated to inflatable rides, including a bounce house and a giant slide.
This section is ticketed, but there are tons of other fun, free events for kids as well. The Arts Council has coordinated a lot of activities for the kids, including face painting and arts and crafts.
Additionally, Lonon says that, “One of the fun aspects of the festival, which is for children of all ages, are our roving performers.” These street performers are amazing, and include stilt walkers, a unicyclist, jugglers, mimes, interactive theatre, a magician, and balloon sculptures.
Lonon adds that, “And no festival called Christmas in July would be complete without Santa Claus, so we’ll have Santa there as well.”
In addition to all of these spectacular events, there is one that the Christmas in July Festival is most famous for: the Civil War Reenactors. These men, dressed in battle clothes appropriate to the time, recreate the battles of the Civil War. Lonon says that, ““They do demonstrations, and they do some mock skirmish battles from the Civil War, especially the ones that were close to this area. And they’re in full costume. It’s a nice educational aspect of the festival, and it adds a little bit of character to what’s happening.”
Of course, the Christmas in July Festival wouldn’t be complete without a Christmas tree contest! The contest is a recent addition to the festival, and Lonon explains that, “This year, like the last couple of years, they’re doing a competition among the tree growers. The tree growers have the opportunity to bring in a tree to enter the competition, and then it’s like a People’s Choice Award; they vote for their favorite Christmas tree. And what that tells the tree growers is what the consumer is looking for and what the consumer likes.”
Additionally, if you vote on a Christmas tree, you’re automatically entered for a chance to win a free Chose N’ Cut Christmas tree this holiday season.
With regards to parking, there are a few town lots that are first come, first serve. However, if you’re feeling generous, there are several paid parking lots that donate to different nonprofit organizations, depending on which lot you decide on.
Lonon is anticipating a great turnout this year. She believes that the reason this event has gone on for so long is because it has, “a great scene, great volunteers, and community spirit.”
The Christmas in July Festival is held in Downtown West Jefferson. Please visit http://christmasinjulyinfo.ipage.com/index.html for road closures and any more information you may need.
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