By Paul T. Choate
July 6, 2012. The 26th annual Christmas in July Festival in West Jefferson begins tonight at 6 p.m. Opening ceremonies will feature the Buck Haggard Band and Wolf Creek Band. The music begins at 6:45 p.m.
“The streets of West Jefferson are already quite busy and active with lots of people walking around and waiting for everything to kick off,” said Jane Lonon, executive director of the Ashe County Arts Council and festival coordinator. “We officially start at 6 p.m. The food vendors will be open at that point and our first band – opening ceremonies – takes place at 6:45. Then, the other main stage music and street dance will go until 10 tonight. We‘ve got about 100 art and craft vendors and they will be setting up tomorrow.”
From 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday at the main stage, the festival will feature bands Southern Accent, Heritage, Crooked Road Ramblers, Becca Eggers and Amantha Mill, Wayne Henderson and Friends, Jeff Little, Freeman and Williams, Leona Williams, ToneBlazers and Carolina Crossing Band, appearing by the hour in that order.
Appearing on the community stage beginning at 9 a.m. are JAM (Junior Appalachian Musicians), Dancin’ Debbies, Sons of Pitch, April’s School of Dance, Fleet Feet Cloggers and Tonya Halsey’s Voice Students, appearing in that order.
The annual event typically brings about 20,000 people to West Jefferson, according to Lonon, adding that no official records are kept and that the total is calculated by police estimates, parking control and food vendors.
“It’s a comfortable-sized festival,” said Lonon. “It’s big enough to have the kind of quality that you want and small enough so that folks can still experience West Jefferson’s small town mountain charm.”
The Christmas in July Festival is considered to be one of the best, old-fashioned summer festivals in the South. It is sponsored this year by Ashe County Arts Council, Ashe County Chamber of Commerce, the Town of West Jefferson, Ashe Civic Center, Dr. Pepper, Mountain Aire Golf Club, Ashe County Cheese, Libby’s, Fleet Feet Cloggers, SkyLine/SkyBest, visitwestjefferson.org and Ashe Mountain Times.
“It’s just a fun, fun day,” said Lonon. “It’s sort of described as a homecoming on the streets for a lot of Ashe County folks and it’s a destination for others wanting to come up to the mountains and escape the heat and enjoy a really nice small town arts and crafts and music festival.”
For more information, visit christmasinjuly.info or call 336-846-2787.