By Samantha Hudson
Nov. 28, 2012. The Banner Elk Chamber of Commerce along with the Town of Banner Elk will host their annual holiday celebration. The event will kick-off with a parade of lights in downtown Banner Elk. Festivities will then move to Tate Evans Park and will feature the North Pole Express Train Ride, more than 800 luminaries, Christmas and ceremonial menorah-lighting, the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Clause as well as free refreshments and the Alpacas from Apple Hill Farm.
“This is the first year the event will include a parade,” Jo-Ann McMurray, who took over as event coordinator just last year for the chamber of commerce, said.
The parade will be led by the Avery County High School band. McMurray said they chose to expand the event this year because of the ever growing number of attendee’s.
“We had such a good turnout last year that we decided that we needed to add some things this year,” said McMurray.
The parade will begin at 6 p.m. and according to McMurray the North Pole Express Train Ride is rented out until 10 p.m. but festivities have no definite conclusion time. This is also the first year that the event has included the train ride, which will take spectators through the luminary lit park. The event has grown over the years from its beginning which included a simple tree lighting with Santa.
“It’s special for the children of course, it’s Christmas and everybody wants to be reminded that it’s Christmas, so they come to events that help remind them.”
The celebration is open to the public and free of charge and people are encouraged to attend.
“I want people to know we have a lot of volunteers who help us, and a lot of people who donate things to us, their time, equipment; it takes a lot to put this together and we’re very fortunate that we have a lot of people in the community who just strike up a band and get going and help us to create this event,” said McMurray.
Space is still available for residents, businesses and civic organizations that wish to participate in the parade.