JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) – With Thanksgiving over, Tennessee’s oldest town rang in the holiday season with a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony Friday night with a few extra precautions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Events coordinator Melinda Copp told News Channel 11 that many events have had to be canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, but this holiday season, the people of Jonesborough will have options.
“We felt like it was important to get people downtown especially to come into our stores and shop with our merchants,” Copp said. It’s been a really challenging year on everyone with events we’ve really just been focusing on something safe where people can get out and still walk around downtown and visit our stores.”
Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest officially kicked off the holiday season Friday night at the ceremony while welcoming guests and citizens alike to the town square.
“It is more like a postcard,” Vest explained. “It’s almost like a Hallmark story and we’re going to try to make it more special this year for our community.”
Community is important to the people of Jonesborough, especially small business owners like Bethany Oakes, the owner of Downtown Sweet.
“I love that my town is really committed to bringing holiday spirit in the midst of this pandemic and this crisis,” she said.
Having any kind of holiday events was important to Oakes.
“We did not get to have our festivals for the year which really made a huge impact on our sales and there are many small businesses down here… it was very detrimental,” she said.
Visitors from afar came to visit loved ones for the holidays and were pleased to enjoy some normalcy during the pandemic.
“It really lightens the mood and we really like walking around,” Anna Martin from Raleigh, North Carolina told News Channel 11. “Obviously we are still being safe- wearing our masks and socially distancing but it’s nice to still be able to come out and celebrate the holidays and see everybody.”
Mayor Vest was pleased to welcome visitors to the ceremony.
“We have such a beautiful and wonderful downtown,” he said. “We want to make sure we show it off every season and Christmas season really is the most special season. So, we’re going to light Jonesborough up so people just like tonight will be coming through and seeing all the lights and all the festivities here at Christmas.”
Santa and Mrs. Claus also attended the ceremony.
“This is sort of an unofficial event but we just wanted to come down and share some joy,” Santa said.
And to the kids of the world – fear not. Santa proclaimed Friday night that the COVID-19 pandemic has not affected him and he will be visiting everyone on schedule.
“We will be flying as normal,” he assured.
Some of those kids enjoyed the ceremony, including Oliver Collette, 4, and his friend Addie Heltzel, 3.
“They make it fun and beautiful because it’s fun,” Collette said of the lights around Downtown Jonesborough.
When asked what her favorite part about Christmas is, Heltzel answered: “The ribbons and the presents.”
The overwhelming message from those in attendance: “Merry Christmas!”