Few things are as they normally are this year. The pandemic has changed schedules and turned normally large events into socially distanced gatherings.
But Tuesday night brought back an iconic image of the season in north Jefferson County and, in the minds of many, a return to a sense of normal.
The Jefferson County Commission and the Hallmark Cooperative brought back the iconic Christmas tree that had been on the lake of the Hallmark farm for years. About three dozen people were masked up and bundled up to be present for the first time the lights of the restored tree were turned on.
The tree is no longer on the lake as it was for many years. Instead, its reflected white lights glisten on the nearby water.
Steve Ammons, chairman of the commission’s development committee, wasn’t expecting as many people to attend the event, which was shared via Facebook Live.
“We wanted to make sure everybody had an opportunity to come out and be a part of this,” he said. “It was going to be smaller, but this is a big moment for Warrior and Hallmark and our opportunity to kind of show off the iconic Hallmark Farm and the Christmas tree that was from the past.”
District 4 Commissioner Joe Knight promised the tree would return when the cooperative took control of the property in September 2019.
“The tree’s kind of been here for so many years that people recognize it as home,” Knight said. “It’s a symbol of hope that we’ll get back to where we can really enjoy the true spirit of Christmas and not do it under these circumstances.
“It’s a look backwards, and it’s a look forward and forward meaning it’s a symbol of hope,” Knight continued. “It’s meant so much to so many over the years just to see it, especially if they travel out of state or out of town. They’re coming back and they’re like, ‘Wow. I’m home,’ when they see the tree. Especially this time of year.”
Ammons said there were some on social media who longed the tree’s return to its place on the water.
“It just wasn’t financially responsible for us to do it,” the development chair said. “It was gonna cost more, and the safety of having water and electricity (together) … They don’t mix very well. We didn’t want to have to go to that extent and create a problem. But I think this is a good representation, and it’s something that drivers coming back and forth (on Interstate 65) can see and kind of remember back to those glory days.”
Ammons said the 565-acre Hallmark Farm development is in Phase 3, looking at infrastructure, including power and sewer lines.
“When we go to sell pieces of parcels of property, we’ll know exactly where those things will go, and then we’ll look at doing some grading to make it almost an advantage site for not only the retail but for the light industrial,” Ammons said.