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Town of Unicoi celebrates season with new event

By Richard Rourk

Santa and Mrs. Claus passed through town during the Town of Unicoi’s new “Christmas at the Caboose” drive-thru light display and Christmas Village held on Saturday, Dec. 12.

Hundreds of community members attended to view the lights, roast marshmallows, meet Santa and Mrs. Claus and even have a photo with Santa’s antique sleigh and his favorite reindeer, Mary.

“This event turned out to be a huge success,” Town of Unicoi Communications and Programs Director Ashley Shelton said. “We had cars lined down the street when we opened the gates and most of them came through the village after driving through the lights.”

“Christmas at the Caboose” included a drive-thru light display around the Mountain Harvest Kitchen and a Christmas village where guests enjoyed free Christmas cakes, treats and hot chocolate, served by the Unicoi History Group, while they interacted with favorite Christmas characters like Frosty, Rudolph and the Grinch. Families also gathered by the fire pits to roast s’mores while they listened to Christmas music and took in the festive decorations.

“This was a wonderful way for our family to enjoy the Christmas season,” Town of Unicoi resident Candice Jones said. “The girls were excited to see Santa and the family photo in front of the sleigh meant a lot to me.”

Santa and Mrs. Clause sent presents down a slide to children from atop the recently restored Clinchfield CRR 1111 caboose to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure and youngsters could even leave their letters to Santa in his portable mailbox.

Mary the Town Cow made an appearance as Santa’s favorite reindeer and guests were snapping photos with her all evening.

“We’re proud of our team for being able to pull something like this together so quickly,” Town of Unicoi Mayor Kathy Bullen said. “They began planning a little over a month ago and yet they were able to create a COVID-friendly Christmas wonderland that the community seemed to enjoy.”

According to Shelton, “Christmas at the Caboose“ was the result of very dedicated volunteers.

“This event took a massive volunteer effort by our dedicated community members,” Shelton said. “The fire department, history group, Ruritan and maintenance department all came together to set up and decorate and we’re talking tons of man-hours, but everyone was happy to help and it was great to see our community spirit thriving.”

The free drive-thru Christmas light display, created by professionals at Gabriel’s Christmas in Jonesborough, will be open every night from 6-11 p.m. until Jan. 1, according to town officials. The display route goes around the Mountain Harvest Kitchen in a clockwise direction.

According to Shelton, special thanks go out to event sponsors Gabriel’s Christmas, Mountain Commerce Bank, Unicoi History Group, Ledford Funeral Home, Bank of Tennessee, Los Jalapenos, Jones and Church Farms, Tsubaki Nakashima, Unicoi Wine and Spirits, IW Trailers, Clinchfield Credit Union, Erwin Aluminum, Erwin Paint and Body, Farm Bureau, H&H Auto, Reflections Health Spa, Shelton’s Cleaning and Remodeling, Shults Law Offices, Whistle Stop Deli and Catering, Crackerbee’s Antiques, Views by Valerie, Bojangles, and Food City. Additional thanks to the Unicoi Police Department for traffic control, the Unicoi Volunteer Fire Department for its multitude of efforts, audio engineer Eli Kistner, Recreation Aide Patricia Bennett, maintenance technicians Tony Street and Danny Coffie, and special volunteers Jean Mull, Leisa Willis, Dale and John Foster, Chris Privette, Suzanne Price, Domynik Smith, Kaleb and Tristan Laws, and many others. 

For more information on upcoming events, visit or follow the town on Facebook at