Franklin has often been described as a “Hallmark-like” town, and at no other time of year is that more apparent than during the Thanksgiving-to-Christmas holiday season. Beginning this weekend, calendars are teeming with enough festivities to appeal to every interest and age group.
Jump-starting the season this upcoming weekend, as well as the consecutive Saturday – Dec. 2 – the Town of Franklin is hosting its annual Winter Wonderland event. Held in downtown Franklin, the festivities last from 5 to 8 p.m. both Saturdays.
“This event has become a favorite part of holiday traditions for both visitors and locals alike,” said Mayor Jack Horton. “The Town staff has put together a great event that truly celebrates the spirit of the season and can be enjoyed by everyone.”
The Saturday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 25 Winter Wonderland features the Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony at 7 p.m. The musical group, The White Sisters, will perform holiday favorites at 6:30 p.m., just prior to the tree lighting. Following the tree lighting is a merchant-sponsored candlelight service for individuals who wish to participate.
“Much like last year, the downtown holiday décor will be enhanced this year with many different photo opportunities,” said Town Manager Amie Owens. “These holiday decorations are sure to brighten your holidays and can be enjoyed until a few days after the New Year.”
Offered at both Winter Wonderland events are free carriage rides in an elegant vis-a-vis carriage, along with a larger carriage to accommodate more riders. In addition, Macon Early College hosts a table at Crabtree General Store where children can write letters to Santa. And, Santa will be out on the streets of Franklin greeting children and families from 5 to 8 p.m. both nights of Winter Wonderland.
Many downtown restaurants and merchants stay open late during Winter Wonderland to give shoppers a chance to eat, grab a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, and purchase holiday gifts. In addition, businesses have decorated their shop windows and interiors, adding to the festive atmosphere and the holiday experience.
“The Town of Franklin has worked hard to create an event that celebrates not only the holidays but the spirit of our small town. This is a great family event, and we look forward to seeing familiar faces and visitors from all over the area here in Franklin for Winter Wonderland,” added Owens.
Christmas Parade on Sunday
Following the first Winter Wonderland event is the Franklin Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Christmas Parade, held this Sunday, Nov. 26, beginning at 3 p.m.
A multitude of parade entries line up along Church Street behind the Macon County Courthouse. The parade route begins beside Town Hall and proceeds down Main Street, turning left at the Lazy Hiker Brewing Company onto Porter Street before turning left onto Palmer Street. The route ends at the intersection of Highlands Road and Main Street.
Betsey Gooder is this year’s Grand Marshal. Gooder has been a fixture in Macon County for more than 40 years. She and her husband Gary moved from Florida to the Franklin area and started a free weekly paper, The Macon County News & Shopping Guide. After her husband passed away in 2006, Gooder would take the reins and run the business, finally retiring this past July.
Gooder has served on the Macon County Arts Council board and she has volunteered over the years at various events, including Christmas caroling on Main Street for Winter Wonderland. She has acted with the Overlook Theater Company, performing in countless shows at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts.
Floats, antique cars and trucks, horses, dancers and more have traditionally been a part of the processional down Main Street and throughout the parade route. Parade participants will walk beside their floats or entries to hand out candy to the children with Santa Claus appearing at the conclusion.
Cowee Christmas & Balsam Bee
Holiday revelers can head to the Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center; Dec. 2, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the 9th Annual Cowee Christmas and 6th Annual Balsam Bee.
“This event checks all the boxes for getting us in a festive mood with one-stop shopping for decorations, gifts, activities/crafts for the kids, photo opportunities, and live entertainment by local musicians,” shared one of the event’s long-time organizers and volunteers, Claire Suminski. “The Balsam Bee has fragrant gift selections, including a new balsam and Fraser fir-stuffed accent pillow featuring a goat design by artist Dennis Dietz.”
Inside the Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center are numerous artisan tenants open for visitors. Suminski added that attendees to the Cowee annual event have opportunities to “find that special gift or learn more about the culture of our historic area.”
Attendees can view weaving, needle felting and hats by Teresa Bouchonnet; paintings by Carol Conti; felting items by Kim Keelor; wheel-thrown pottery inside the Cowee Pottery School; earrings made from decorative tins by Nancy MacKoviak; walking sticks, banjos, and wood crafts by Noah Alicea; and so much more.
Smoky Mountain Quilters will again present Quilts of Valor to veterans. Children and families will have an opportunity to participate in plenty of free, hands-on crafts and activities such as evergreen swag making, cookie decorating, wooden holiday bell painting, wax-bowl and candle making, and more. There are free books as well as face painting, snowball games, and – a highlight – a visit from Santa at 11 a.m. as well as dancing elves arriving on the Cowee Fire Department’s fire engine.
Local musicians performing are:
- Wyatt Duvall (banjo)
- The White Sisters (vocalists/trio)
- Lady and the Tramps (dulcimers)
- Richard Tichich (fiddle)
A holiday music sing-a-long will be held at noon and Dance Arts Co-op dancers will perform at 12:30 p.m. in the Cowee auditorium.
“With all these offerings of sights and sounds of Christmas at the event, we must not overlook the senses of taste and smell!” said Suminski. “In the Cowee Mercantile, ladies from the Women’s History Trail will be selling festive homemade cookies and hot drinks to benefit their annual Barbara McRae student scholarship. And home-cooked soups by Donnie Bishop and friends will be in The Fraser Fir Cafe from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. (or until gone). After 2 p.m., leftover soup will be sold in quart containers at the Cowee Mercantile.”
Finally, Suminski reminded that monies raised from such items as the balsam pillows and swags benefit the maintenance and ongoing needs of Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center.
Near Cowee School is the historic Rickman Store, decorated for the holidays, where there are Saturday treats, beginning at 10 a.m. and ending at 4 p.m., as well as bluegrass and dulcimer jam sessions and numerous handcrafted items for sale. Rickman Store is only open on Saturdays from May to the Saturday before Christmas each year.
Hard Candy Christmas
The 36th Annual Hard Candy Christmas Arts & Crafts event is not in Franklin, but it is nearby – and it was founded by and is hosted by Doris Hunter, a Macon County native. As an artist, she developed the event to provide area craftspeople with an opportunity to showcase their wares.
This event takes place the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 24-25, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Because it has grown over the years, Hard Candy Christmas takes place at the Western Carolina University Liston B. Ramsey Regional Activities Center in Cullowhee. Admission is $5, with children under 12 admitted free. Parking is free, and a purchased ticket on Friday is also accepted on Saturday.
Everything from watercolor paintings to hand-crafted fine furnishings to soaps and quilts will be on display. Besides arts and crafts for sale, local musicians, including Ronnie Evans (see article page 16), will perform live. Evans will be “strumming old favorite holiday tunes we grew up with and presenting his newest historical novel,” shared Hunter.
Dillsboro Lights & Luminaries
Also on Dec. 2, from 5 to 8 p.m. is the Dillsboro Lights & Luminaries annual event. In its 40th year, the quaint town of Dillsboro, just over Cowee Mountain from Franklin, offers a magical evening created by the illumination of 2,500 candles and twinkling white lights. Shops and restaurants are open during this free event.
Discover Church shows love
Discover Church’s annual I Love My Town Christmas is a way for church members and the public to visit the church building at 47 Macon Center Drive in Franklin on Dec. 3, beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at 1 p.m.
Participants will visit display tables and learn how they can contribute to various nonprofits and ministries as well as purchase necessities and gifts for area foster children. This event replaces regular worship on that Sunday; however, a short worship will be held at 9:15.
Check out Macon Sense’s What’s Happening page (click here), to learn specific dates and times of these events and others.