Decking Haywood for the holidays

By Stina Sieg | Nov 21, 2012

While most of us are still recovering from our Thanksgiving dinners and early-morning Black Friday jaunts, all the little towns that make up Haywood County seem to be already celebrating Christmas.

Regardless of whether you're in Waynesville, Canton, Maggie Valley or Clyde, you probably aren't too far from holiday banners, electrified wreaths or lit-up snowflakes dotting the road. Town-sponsored Christmas decorations are everywhere this time of year — and it's been this way for as long as most anyone can remember.

In the words of Fred Baker, Waynesville's public works director, going all out for Christmas has "pretty much been kind of a tradition that's been going on longer than I've been around."

Part of the practice is getting the decorations up early — even before people sit down for their Thanksgiving meal. The point, Baker explained, is to have the decorations on full display by the time the town's Christmas parade rolls around in early December.

While all of this has been pretty familiar over the years, there have been a few shifts in customs. In the past, the town used to decorate more, even giving the trees outside the Haywood County Library a yuletide sparkle. These days, the effort isn't as in-depth, though locals can still expect to see several different genres of garnishes across town. Main Street's light poles are wrapped in greenery, lights and bright-red ribbons. Poisettas made of lights illuminate Hazelwood, and glowing, geometric tannenbaums line Russ Avenue. In the farther flung reaches, you can see lit-up wreaths.

While all different, these glowing decorations do have one thing in common (besides a general holiday warmth). All are filled with energy-efficient LED light bulbs, meaning they last long and could possibly save the town thousands. While Baker estimates the town used to shell out about $5,000 every other year or so, it hasn't had to spend an extra dime so far since recently replacing the lights.

"It's nice having LEDs now, because we don't have to go through and change a bunch of bulbs," he said.

While not every township has made the shift, it's probably just a matter of time, because what's Christmas without an overabundance of festive, tiny lights? On Clyde's main drag, they brightly shine in several trees, and in Maggie they illuminate miles of snowflakes along Soco Road.

In Canton, little lights are everywhere, wrapped around the bridge heading out of town and the little gazebo nearby. They light up a sleigh and candlestick, as well as several red Christmas trees.

Some of these are LED and some aren't, but that difference isn't what town officials like Alderman Ed Underwood care most about. Sure, they'll probably make the change gradually, he explained, but what he's most interested in is how the town comes together every year to make this embelishment possible. Every winter, it's the work — the volunteer work — of the Appearance Committee.

"It means a lot for people to come together to decorate," Underwood said. "They're not doing it for them. They're doing it for the town, for the people who live here and the people who drive through it."

This time around, they've even added a bit of a twist. Downtown is now filled with fresh greenery tied to light poles with red ribbon. This idea of going natural was Robin Smith's, Underwood stressed, and he couldn't say enough good things about her. She and the rest of the volunteers do an "amazing job," he said.

Smith, of course, was more modest about her accomplishments and credited everyone involved in the adornment effort. For her, doing this was all about giving back to a town where she was raised — and where she's proud to have raised her children.

"It's the fellowship," she said, explaining why she loved decorating with fellow volunteers and merchants alike. "We all get together, and it makes it sort of like a family."

Sounds like Christmas.