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Christmas in the Park to be held in Calhoun Friday

The City of Calhoun will celebrate “Christmas In the Park” on Friday, Nov. 26 from 5-8 p.m. at the Hiwassee Meadowlands Park.

At the event, the park will be filled with thousands of Christmas lights, holiday scenes and more than 40 lighted trees. Those who attend can enjoy free homemade chili, drinks, desserts and treat bags.

Several marketplace vendors will also be present offering the opportunity to purchase Christmas gifts. Carolers will provide music throughout the evening and children can watch the movie “Polar Express” and can enjoy making crafts at the craft tent.

The highlight of the evening will be the arrival of Santa Claus on a fire truck. Pictures with Santa and his elf can be made in an antique carriage.

All children toddlers through 12 years of age will receive a free toy.

The entire park pavilion will be decorated with nutcrackers and lighted lanterns. There is no charge for the event and the public is invited to attend.

Throughout the Christmas season the Meadowlands will remain lighted at night and visitors are encouraged to take a “Christmas Walk in the Park,” where there are many photo opportunities, including a 40 foot high Christmas tree with 12,000 dancing lights.

Those who visit should park on the ball field and use the park sidewalks to see the display of lights. The park is located on Highway 163 across from the Calhoun Municipal Building.

Holiday season begins in Athens with Old Fashioned Christmas

The holiday season kicked off in Athens Friday night with the annual Old Fashioned Downtown Christmas event.

According to Athens Main Street Director Lisa Dotson, the event had a good turnout despite the cold weather.

“I think we had a good turnout in attendees,” Dotson said. “We were only reaching out to the local people and not making this a regional event, so I believe we had a really good turnout.”

Dotson said they would like to see the Old Fashioned Christmas event continue to “do better” for the community.

“Our goal when we do this event is to kick off the holiday season and for people to become aware of our shops that are downtown,” she expressed. “As I walked around I saw that the businesses were full, the restuarants were full and even our vendors were busy, so that was a success.”

This year, Main Street sought craft vendors in addition to the food vendors they normally have.

“Some of the churches and non-profits also wanted to participate in addition to the crafts,” she noted. “We also had Christmas vendors as well selling Christmas trees and I think that was a hit.”

Dotson believes this event has impacted the small businesses of Athens over the years.

“These types of events help boost the sales for our business owners, so I really believe that it holds a big impact,” she said. “Any time that we have an event downtown it affects our businesses, which is what we want.”

Looking into the future, Dotson would like to see the event expand its territory.

“Most of the activity was at Market Park and we had a little bit of activity on White Street,” Dotson noted. “I think we will be having some conversations with our business owners in the future to get more of their input into what they would like to see for the event to make it better for them.”

Main Street is already working on plans for the next Old Fashioned Christmas event next year.

“We are hoping to collaborate with the City of Athens, Friendly City Festivals and the Art Center to see if we can pull our forces together, stronger,” she expressed. “We would like to become one force for all of the events that go on downtown, one unit by working together.”

She expressed her gratitude to all who helped make the event happen this year.

“I want to thank everybody who participated,” Dotson said. “We had local dancers, the Arts Center and the Jazzy Tour singing Christmas carols, all of the vendors that participated, the City of Athens for their support and McMinn County Tourism.”

Donations begin to flow in to Friendly Fellow Club for season

Applications for assistance and donations to help families at Christmastime are both starting to come in for this year’s Friendly Fellow Club food basket drive.

Organizers of the annual community event — a local tradition for more than 80 years — are anticipating both an increase in applications for the baskets that provide staples to get families in need through the winter and also higher prices for the food provided.

Applications are currently available for pickup from the drive through windows of any McMinn County branch of the following banks: CapStar Bank, Simmons Bank, BB&T, Peoples Bank of East Tennessee or SouthEast Bank. Applications must be returned to those banks’ drive through windows or mailed by the close of business on Tuesday, Dec. 7.

For those wishing to mail applications, send them to Friendly Fellow Club, P.O. Box 325, Athens, TN 37371-0325.

Applicants are asked to return only the white copy of their application and keep the yellow copy for verification purposes when picking up their food box.

All applicants must reside within McMinn County in order to qualify for assistance.

The Friendly Fellow Club is a 501(c)(3) organization. Not only are the donations tax-deductible, but because the Friendly Fellow Club operates under an all-volunteer board, 100% of all donations — every single penny — goes to help families in Athens and McMinn County.

Online donations via credit/debit card or PayPal can be made online at friendlyfellows.org by clicking the donate button. Donations can also be mailed to P.O. Box 325, Athens, TN 37371-0325.

Make checks payable to Friendly Fellow Club. Notes can be left in the online giving portal or with the check for honorariums or memorials.

The following are the latest batch of donations:

• In honor of the members and staff of Mars Hill Presbyterian Church, from Jim and Freddie Nelson — $300

• From the Athens Kiwanis Club — $2,500

• In honor of the Dinner Club, from Greg Moses and Kristin Schrader — $100

• In honor of Ross and Ann Dodson, from Greg Moses and Kristin Schrader — $100

• In honor of Greg Moses, from Kristin Schrader — $50

• From Hugh and Chelsey Willson — $100

Community members always lend a hand packing Friendly Fellow Club baskets. This year, boxes will be packed on Monday, Dec. 20, at 6 p.m. at 2115 Redfern Drive in Athens, located off Congress Parkway behind Dooley Tractor Company and on Redfern Drive across from American Bedding.

Whether a person comes by themselves or brings friends, the more hands on deck, the better, according to officials. Volunteer help has made it possible for the Friendly Fellow Club to pack approximately 500 boxes within an hour’s time each year.

Volunteers can also help to distribute boxes to registered families the following day at the same location.

Boxes will be distributed at the same location to eligible households on Tuesday, Dec. 21, from 8:30-11:30 a.m.

For more information about the Friendly Fellow Club, visit friendly fellows.org

Athens Council prepares to review city charter

The Athens City Council is developing a timeline to review the city’s primary governing document.

At its November study session, the council discussed the process by which it will look over and suggest possible revisions to the city charter, which is a private act and requires approval from the state legislature to be modified.

City Manager C. Seth Sumner began the conversation by suggesting that the University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) be brought in to facilitate the charter review.

Council Member Dick Pelley suggested what he called a “Charter Saturday” meeting and to exclude MTAS from the initial discussion.

“We meet as a council and figure out what we want to do, what changes we’re looking at, and then look at the process, then call MTAS in,” said Pelley.

Council Member Frances Witt McMahan asked Pelley if the public would participate in the meeting he proposed.

“The main thing is that we involve the citizens, absolutely, but I think that it’s our call,” said Pelley.

“If we’re going to meet and discuss it, I want citizen input, but first I want us to deal with it and they can observe but not participate in that initial meeting,” said Witt McMahan.

Pelley agreed and said once the council develops its proposals, those suggestions can be put up for public scrutiny, followed by MTAS review.

Mayor Bo Perkinson said he feels MTAS should lead the charter discussion.

“I really think MTAS, having looked at the charters all across the state and having people that are dedicated to this process and understanding charter review; I really think they need to be the ones that lead us,” he said.

Pelley and Witt McMahan disagreed with MTAS being involved in the initial discussion.

“Since we don’t know at this time what we want, then I don’t want MTAS to come and influence what we want. I want to take it to them to help guide us,” said Witt McMahan.

Both Pelley and Witt McMahan said MTAS should be involved later in the process and could provide valuable insight.

“I do think we need MTAS … but I don’t see any harm in us coming together first and listening to each other,” said Witt McMahan.

Perkinson then suggested that MTAS be present at the initial meeting in an observational role. Witt McMahan said she has no problem with that and that it might be beneficial for MTAS to be privy to the initial council discussion. Pelley also said he has no problem with MTAS being present at the initial meeting.

“I have no problem with them being there as long as they’re observers and not part of the program,” said Pelley.

Vice Mayor Mark Lockmiller expressed his support for Pelley and Witt McMahan’s proposal. Council Member Jordan Curtis was unable to attend the study session.

Sumner suggested incorporating the charter discussion into the council’s annual Strategic Summit, which is slated for Feb. 25 and 26, 2022. Pelley said he does not want to wait that long.

The council appeared to reach consensus around holding the initial charter discussion on a Saturday in January.