West Jefferson, North Carolina, is situated for a lot of enjoyment. It’s a nice drive up the mountain and it’s cooler than the lower elevations. The people are friendly and if you enjoy quaint walkable sidewalks with a good amount of public art, you are likely to enjoy your visit.
Several years ago, we visited the Christmas in July festival. It was a great event. I recall that was when we had our first interview with well-known musician and guitar luthier Wayne Henderson. We have enjoyed our visits with Wayne over the years and have a great appreciation for his work and encouragement for talented young musicians.
This year I visited the 33rd annual Christmas in July festival. The weather was comfortable, and the diverse music seemed to be enjoyable for all those in attendance. After the presentation of the color guard and the singing of the national anthem, muskets were fired. It was a respectable blending of patriotism and heritage, honoring the past and those who have and do serve.
There was much excitement when the honored guest showed up. Mr. and Mrs. Claus arrived on a vintage firetruck and made their way to the stage area. Everyone seemed pleased with the greetings from the jolly couple. With a few words from Santa, Christmas in July official kicked off. The food vendors were busy, and the music went on for hours. It was a comfortable feeling of old and new friends getting together.
I had the opportunity to talk with a good number of people and enjoyed greeting several dogs who were also in attendance with their humans. I had a nice chat with Jeff Martin from Jefferson who is now in his mid-20s. He shared stories of his youth when his family visited Christmas in July. At that time the event was held on Main Street. His family attended every year and he recalled how much fun he and his siblings had visiting all the vendors and playing games. With only smiles, he shared these memories and said it was a special time.
When I meet younger people who are excited about their local and hometown festivals, it’s reassuring that these events will have a future.
The West Jefferson Christmas in July festival is administered, produced and worked entirely by volunteers. It’s a labor of love that celebrates mountain culture, heritage and traditions and it all started to celebrate the Christmas tree industry. Ashe County is ranked among the top areas for Christmas tree growers in the United States and the area has sent its share of Christmas trees to the White House.
What a wonderful way for volunteers to honor the Carolinas and celebrate their hometown. I hope that the same spark of excitement and purpose that inspires current volunteers will also inspire younger volunteers. We understand it’s a lot of work and commitment; however, when you go to bed with aching feet and a sore back the night the event is over, you know that you have had a part of something very special.
All the smiles, laughs, chicken on a stick, pictures and good times are in part because of you. It’s a wonderful thing when we celebrate life together and, in the Carolinas, we have many great opportunities to do so.
One thing is for sure, if you enjoy a nice mid-year visit with the man in red, he certainly has a vested interest in showing up at a Christmas in July festival in a place that is a national leader in growing Christmas trees.