A three-hour tour filled with Christmas cheer

J. H. Osborne • Dec 10, 2018 at 9:28 AM

In the last five weeks, I’ve seen a lot of Christmas. But I’ve yet to decorate inside the house, let alone do anything outside. I wasn’t in a hurry about the latter until night before last, as I took a three-hour tour with friends. We were on Keep Kingsport Beautiful’s 2018 Holiday Lights bus tour.

I thought I might be so jaded at this point I’d mainly just enjoy the company: Robin Davis Cleary; Vicki Cooper Trammell; Roy H. Odum II; Cindy Turner Lemons; Angellette Lambert Richardson and her parents, Wayne and Frankie Sage Lambert. After all, I officially started the season Nov. 1 by attending the tree-raising at Biltmore House. But Mom and I had actually first gotten in the Christmas spirit a couple of weeks earlier by attending opening night of Dolly Parton’s Celebration Dinner Show in Pigeon Forge. I didn’t think I’d be able to take a Christmas show seriously before Halloween, but Dolly’s Celebration had me humming Christmas carols on the way home. In early November, I went to Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas kickoff, and this year the park has even more lights, if you can believe that. A week later I was aboard the Santa Train as it made its 76th annual run from Kentucky to downtown Kingsport.

On Black Friday, I headed south out of Knoxville on my way to Walt Disney World. I joined friends in our room at Disney’s Bay Lake Tower at 9:45 p.m, just in time to watch the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks from our park-facing balcony on the resort’s ninth floor. And for the next few days I was immersed in Christmas decor as only Disney can “imagineer” it: life-sized gingerbread houses in hotel lobbies and chocolate sculptures, too. Themed trees everywhere. On Saturday we did one of my favorite things: the Candlelight Processional at Epcot. The night we were there actor Helen Hunt presented the readings between musical numbers performed by guest choirs and Disney singers. Later we watched Epcot’s holiday version of its nightly finale fireworks/light show, “Illuminations.” Sunday we went to the Disney Vacation Club members-only rooftop terrace of Bay Lake Tower for a bird’s-eye view of the Magic Kingdom’s special Christmas fireworks extravaganza. On Monday, we were inside the park for the fireworks.

I arrived back in Kingsport just in time to attend a Christmas party at Randy Sermons’ home in Johnson City. The food! All home-cooked. Every flat surface in every room had a plate, platter, bowl or chafing dish. The two cooks have roots in Louisiana and Greece — two of my favorite food groups. And the Christmas tree, covered with years’ worth of homemade ornaments was amazing. Then it was back to work last week. No time yet to put up trees in our house or so much as a wreath outside.

I didn’t feel lazy as we passed house after house decked out in Christmas glory on that bus ride the other night.  And I didn’t view any of it with a jaundiced eye, despite my past few weeks. It was fun. The sponsor for the night’s bus tour was Blue Ridge Properties, and we began with a social hour at the firm’s Broad Street offices. Then 50 or so of us piled onto a luxury coach for a three-hour tour that included Ridgefields, Allandale Estates, Rock Springs, Bloomingdale, Greenfields and Fairacres. There were many wonderful displays. One of the best is Bill Rhoten’s home on Plainview (near Litz Manor). Another showstopper is near Bloomingdale Pike and Wadlow Gap Road. A home on Carolina Avenue looks like a lighted gingerbread house. The best part was fellowship. Christmas carols played nonstop, but not so loud we couldn’t talk. Blue Ridge Properties provided snacks, but Roy also brought along homemade candies.

We all had a favorite part of the trip. Mr. Lambert said his was that he didn’t have to drive to see the lights, and Wayne (that’s twice, Angellette) and Frankie both loved a house in Ridgefields lighted in blue and gold. Frankie said she liked seeing friends on the bus, and she adored a yard filled with what appeared to be homemade, painted, wooden figures. Angellette said she can remember her mom making snowmen figures like that when she was a child. “And we all loved the ‘JOY’ signs that sparkled,” Angellette said.

For all the splendor we saw on what turned out to be more of a 3.5-hour trip, Vicki’s favorite was one of the most simple: In the window of a house facing Center Street near Watauga Street, there stands a leg lamp, just like the one from “A Christmas Story.”

I hope by the time you’re reading this, I’ve at least cleared a spot for the tree in our living room.

J.H. Osborne covers Sullivan County government for the Times News. Email him at [email protected] 



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