BY LISA WARREN
Several hundred individuals filled the downtown area on Friday evening to help "turn on" the Christmas spirit in Greeneville and Greene County.
Tree-lighting ceremonies at both the Greene County Courthouse and Greeneville Town Hall were two of several special events offered during Main Street: Greeneville's annual "Christmas in Downtown: A Holiday Celebration."
Music, caroling, hot cider, dancing, a Christmas-season movie and more were all part of the varied activities that took place at the 2012 holiday kick-off celebration.
"We have made Greeneville come alive tonight!" said Main Street: Greeneville Executive Director Jann Mirkov, who helped to coordinate the evening's activities.
Mirkov said she was extremely pleased not only with the large turn-out at the festivities, but also with the weather, which was much warmer than in many past years.
Temperatures ranged from the mid-50s at the evening's beginning to about the upper 40s by nightfall - making it chilly, but not unbearable.
"In the past five years of this event, this is one of the most pleasant nights, weather-wise, that we've had," Mirkov said.
Greene County Mayor Alan Broyles echoed those sentiments as he remembered the down-right frigid weather from last year's community tree-lighting ceremony.
"Last year, it was freezing!" the mayor exclaimed.
The festivities kicked off at 4:45 p.m. at the Greene County Courthouse front steps with Christmas music presentations, featuring the piano students of Deane Gray and Pam Thacker, followed by a vocal performance of holiday favorites from members of the Tusculum View School Chorus, under the direction of Jessica Ricker.
At 6 p.m., the stars of the evening, Father and Mother Christmas (portrayed by Mr. and Mrs. Richard Scheuch) arrived at the courthouse lawn in a horse-drawn carriage, along with several young "Snowflakes Fairies," courtesy of Winter and Company Dance Studio.
Father Christmas, with the help of his "magic walking stick" and the Snowflake Fairies, gave the word to light the community Christmas trees at the courthouse and at Greeneville Town Hall.
The 30-foot tall spruce tree on the Town Hall lawn was donated in memory of the late Jimmy "Mondro" Matthews by his widow, Gayle, and their son, Shane.
Greeneville Mayor W.T. Daniels thanked the Matthews family for their special gift to the Town of Greeneville.
"It's definitely Christmas time in the village!" Daniels said excitedly as preparations began to light up the beautiful tree.
Greeneville Town Recorder Carol Susong sang holiday tunes prior to the lighting of the tree.
Following the tree-lighting ceremonies in the two locations, the crowd dispersed to several areas around town for music, a movie, or just some warm beverages.
Several downtown merchants were also open for the evening with specials for diners and shoppers.
The wall of the Dixie Cleaners building was transformed into an outdoor movie screen, where the film "The Year without a Santa Claus" was shown.
In the lobby of the General Morgan Inn, the handbell choir from First Presbyterian Church performed seasonal classics.
Horse-drawn carriage rides, sponsored by Main Street: Greeneville and TEVET, LLC, were provided through downtown by Equine Elegance of Jonesborough .
Ethan Myers, of Myers Pumpkin Patch and Greenhouses, was on hand at the front lawn of First Presbyterian Church to help visitors make "magic food" for Santa's reindeer.
Across the street, it wasn't reindeer but llamas, courtesy of Walnut Ridge Llama Farm, who were greeting folks.
If you missed the llamas on Friday evening, then Walnut Ridge farm will be hosting its Christmas open house on Saturday, Dec. 15, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In addition to llamas, the farm's co-owner, Jerry Ayers, said there will also be a baby camel on hand for the open house event.
Two blocks south on Main Street, the Andrew Johnson Homestead was open for visitors for candle-light tours and hot cider.
Visitors were greeted to the event by the 17th U.S. President himself (as portrayed by Daniel Luther) and were entertained by the Greeneville Children's Community Chorus and Youth Ensemble.
Lizzie Watts, superintendent of the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, welcomed those attending the evening's events at the Homestead and thanked everyone in the community for their continued support of this community's national historical sites.
Rounding out the evening's activities, the Nathanael Greene Museum had folks kickin' up their heels - 19th century-style - with a Civil War Christmas Ball, hosted by the 1860s Living History and Dance Society.