Celebrating Christmas every day, as a little girl wished for in William Dean Howells' 1892 short story, might be too much holiday cheer, as she eventually learned when her wish came true. But what if we could celebrate just twice a year? That sounds manageable, even fun—especially if one of them is in the summertime.
The Christmas in July Festival, returning to West Jefferson for the 29th year, is the perfect way to alleviate your winter-holiday yearning while also enjoying very summery 4th of July festivities. The annual event, which began in 1987, honors and supports Ashe County's Christmas tree-growing industry, a national leader. The two-day event has grown immensely, and Wesley M. Barker, a Town of West Jefferson employee and festival committee member, says they expect between 10,000 and 15,000 attendees.
One of the most popular attractions is the Christmas tree-growers competition. Each competing crew has a chance to earn prize money donated by the Ashe County Christmas Tree Association and the Christmas in July Festival.
"Plans are in the works to have the public vote on the 'best of the best' and 'people's choice' Christmas tree," Barker said. Other Christmas activities include wreath-making and tree-baling demonstrations, and a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
Many non-Christmas-related activities will also take place on the newly renovated downtown streetscape, which is a three-hour drive from the Triangle. Vendors will sell crafts, toys, clothing, artwork, jewelry, food and much more. Musical stages will feature local and regional artists playing bluegrass, country, and old-time mountain music, including the Buck Haggard Band, the Dollar Brothers Band and Brandy Miller and Friends.
If you're looking to cool off, Barker points out that the New River is just minutes away from West Jefferson, and many outfitters offer canoeing, kayaking and tubing. There's also a fireworks show taking place nearby, at Ashe County Park, on Saturday.
But, Barker says, you probably won't be straying too far from downtown. "It is important to draw people to this festival because this is a beautiful town with cool mountain breezes, great scenery, friendly people and a unique experience all in itself," he says.
Closing your eyes, feeling the cool mountain breezes and smelling the pines, you'll almost be able to believe it's really Christmas in July.
Araceli Cruz has written for The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, Latina Magazine and others. Twitter: @chelipj.