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Holiday 2020 Preview: Christmas parade, toy programs, New Year’s

nativty ceremony

 

 The Pickens Community new Nativity scene was lit Saturday afternoon in a brief ceremony at the courthouse. Those participating were the Rev. Max Caylor, Mayor Steve Lawrence, Commissioner Becky Denny, Marla Renner organizer of funding, Christmas carols leader Casey Ferguson and Commission Chair Rob Jones. The nativity was set up just in time for the Night of Lights Christmas parade Saturday, Dec. 5. 

It’s been said the only constant is change – and 2020 has been a proven testament to the famous quote. This year’s local holiday festivities are no different, with organizers being forced to drastically change protocol or cancel all together. Here’s the latest on local events and Christmas programs. If you know of other programs taking place, e-mail us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to be included in a future edition.

 

Night of Lights Christmas Parade

The event is still a go, scheduled for this Saturday, Dec. 5 beginning at 6 p.m., but organizers opted for a “reverse,” drive-through parade instead of a traditional parade to keep spectators and participants safe. 

This year floats will be stationary and lined up along Stegall Drive. Spectators will remain in their vehicles at all times and drive along the parade route, which begins at Main Street at the Pickens County Courthouse and travels down Stegall Drive (a one-way road in front of Jasper Middle School) to its ending point at Lee Newton Park. 

As vehicles travel along Stegall Drive they can tune into 88.1 F.M. on their radio dial to listen to float descriptions, the reading of The Night Before Christmas by Jasper Council member Kirk Raffield, and DJ Dano who will play Christmas music. The radio transmitter will work for vehicles within about a mile radius of Stegall Drive. Signs along the route will remind people where to tune in.

“We did this so people can still feel like they are a part of something even though they can’t get out of their cars,” said Haley Bouchie of Jasper Merchants Association, the entity organizing the event. “DJ Dano has been a longtime partner with the Jasper Merchants and he has been wonderful and engaging at other events we have had.”

The Pride of Pickens Marching Band will be positioned at the Pickens County Courthouse, at the start of the route. They will play beginning at 6 p.m. The parade will wrap up by 7:30 p.m. 

“We are excited to be playing in the parade this year and we are glad that it worked out so that we could do it,” said PHS Band Director Michael Oubre. “The Jasper Christmas parade is a tradition we always like to be a part of for our community.”

There is also a virtual tree lighting ceremony this year, which will air live on KnowPickens.com. The tree lighting is at 6 p.m. Spectators will not be allowed to gather around the tree. There will be volunteers on site to ensure spectators do not gather. 

Santa will be on one of the stationary floats along the route. But there will be no photos with Santa this year. There will also be no vendors set up this year. 

‘It’s been a challenge but we are doing all this to keep people safe,” Bouchie said. “We hope people will come out and enjoy the show – and they can drive through as many times as they want.”

There is no charge for this event. 

 

New Year party cancelled 

 

The Jasper Merchants Association, which also organizes the annual New Year celebration on Main Street, has cancelled this year’s event. But this change had nothing to do with the pandemic. Bouchie said the Jasper Merchants Association decided the event was not enough of a draw to continue. 

“We decided to step away from New Year’s,” she said. “It is very time consuming and costly, and no one shows up. We’d spend a lot of time, money, and energy and 40 people would come five minutes to midnight. We said before last year’s event we’d see how it went and decide. We can’t take it on anymore.”

 

Toys for Tots applications skyrocket

Amy Brannon, who heads up the local Toys for Tots program this year, said the organization has seen a surge of applications, up from 2,000 in 2019 to 2,800 this season. 

“Our numbers are up I think because people are out of work, and because of how hard this year has been for everyone financially,” she said. “I get applications on my phone email and it just dings constantly.”

And despite applications being up 40 percent, the charity, which is run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, is still able to fill all applications without cutting back on the number of toys each child receives. Brannon said local giving has been down due to the pandemic, but the Toys for Tots Foundation has stepped up with funding. Toy distributors have also stepped up to provide the national Toys for Tots program, including the local chapter, with donations.

The local Toys for Tots program has spent about $11,000 at local retailers.

“We have been able to keep things exactly the same with that, but we are still going through our own funds quickly and are going to start next year with not much,” she said. “We still very much need toys and donations.”

There are toy collection boxes located at many business across the county (see full list on their website or Facebook page). This Saturday, Dec. 5 and next Saturday, Dec. 12 active and retired Marines, and the Georgia State Patrol will be at Walmart in Jasper from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. collecting new, unwrapped toys.  

Deadline for applications is Tuesday, Dec. 8 Applications can be submitted online at www.jasper-ga.toysfortots.org.

Last day for toy pickup is December 12. Pick-up location is at 95 Whitfield Drive behind Advanced Auto Parts. Pick-ups will be every Saturday through December 12. People will be notified of their pickup time. People will be asked to remain in their vehicles. Upon arriving, they will call a number on the window. A volunteer will come to the car, check identification and fill the order. 

 

Lions Fill-A-Stocking dates

The Jasper Lions Fill-A-Stocking program has a big collection event this weekend with the 40th annual North Georgia Toy Run, a motorcycle ride that ends at the Pickens Chamber of Commerce. Riders are asked to bring two toys on the ride to donate to the local Fill-A-Stocking. 

Organizer Leslie Miller said at this point it’s too early to tell if application numbers are up or down. Applications will be accepted until December 15. They are available at all Pickens schools except for the high school. They are also available at Pickens County Head Start. Applications can be returned to schools or mailed to Jasper Lions Fill-A-Stocking, P.O. Box 1088, Jasper, Ga. 30143. 

“We are not doing email because I don’t want any of the applications to accidentally go to a junk folder and we don’t receive them,” Miller said. 

Toy pick up dates will be determined by the first letter of the applicant’s last name. If there is an extenuating circumstance and applicants cannot make their assigned time, they can come at another time. 

“We are doing it this way to reduce the number of people here at one time,” Miller said. 

At pick up, people will be required to wear a mask. Pick up dates are as follows: 

Last name A-F: Thursday, Dec. 17 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. 

Last name G-M: Friday, Dec. 18 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

 

Last name N-S: Saturday, Dec. 19 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. 

Last name T-Z: Saturday, Dec. 19 from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. 

For information about how to join the North Georgia Toy Run call 770-479-8254. The event is sponsored by Hartman Cycles, Custom Riders Motorcycle Club, Steelhorse Law, and Fowler Insurance Agency. 

 

Shop with the Sheriff

Despite JeepFest being cancelled this year, the annual Shop with a Sheriff’s program is still planned. The program, funded by the JeepFest and Sheriff’s Foundation, allows kids in need to meet up with deputies at Jasper Walmart and shop for Christmas gifts. According to Sandy Essig with the Pickens Sheriff’s Office, the event is scheduled for the week of December 14.  Essig said they have had received several donations and promises of donation, but are waiting a little longer than usual to see if more donations can be secured.

The program tries to serve 100 children each year, which may be difficult to achieve this year with funding restrictions, Essig said. 

Anyone wishing to donate to the Sheriff’s Foundation can bring or mail checks to the Pickens Progress office at 94 N. Main Street, Jasper, Ga. 30143.    

 

Festival of Trees

The Festival of Trees event at the Pickens County Library has been cancelled this year. The library typically invites the community to decorate and display Christmas trees at the local branch.