ROGERSVILLE — As of Wednesday, Church Hill, Rogersville, Surgoinsville, and Bulls Gap had canceled their Christmas parades due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, and Mount Carmel is expected to follow suit Thursday evening.

Rogersville also canceled its Dickens of a Christmas festival that was planned for the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and Mount Carmel called off its annual Santa Run, where Santa rides on top of a fire truck and visits every street in the city limits, throwing candy to those who come to greet him.

However, that doesn’t mean these towns have canceled Christmas.

Each community has something special going on, which gives the public an opportunity to get out and get festive without taking a chance on catching the virus.

Rogersville’s Outdoor Christmas Tour of Homes

The Rogersville Heritage Association, which ordinarily organizes an indoor Christmas Tour of Historic Homes, is instead moving the tour outside. Several homeowners will be participating in an exterior decorating contest.

The list of participating homes will be released around the first of December on the RHA Facebook page.

Anyone interested in participating in the Outdoor Christmas Tour of Homes can call (423) 754-6194. Pictures will be posted of the homes, and the RHA will conduct a virtual vote on Facebook to determine the best outdoor Christmas decorations. A winner will be announced Dec. 5.

Rogersville Chamber of Commerce Director Nancy Barker told the Times News on Wednesday that the city’s annual Christmas parade has been canceled.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, on Monday Hawkins County had its highest single-day report of new cases since the pandemic began with 51. In response, Surgoinsville Elementary, Surgoinsville Middle and Volunteer High School shut down.

“We held out as long as we could, but the numbers keep rising,” Barker said. “We talked to the Health Department and they said, ‘We don’t recommend it.’ We had an outbreak at a couple of schools, I know our police department has two cases, Rural Health Consortium has two cases, and it’s just about everywhere you look.”

As for the Dickens of a Christmas festival, Rogersville Heritage Association Director Melissa Nelson said, “We have made this decision to stay within accordance with state and national guidelines. We wish this were not the case, but we value our community and we will be looking for further opportunities.”

Bulls Gap residents compete

Although its parade is canceled, Bulls Gap is still holding the annual decorating contest. Every year a judge who isn’t familiar with the area is invited to tour the town one weekend in December to pick the best outdoor Christmas decorations.

A certificate and prize are awarded to the top three homes.

As for the parade, City Manager Mike Solomon said it made good sense to cancel in light of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

“The board (of mayor and aldermen) felt like with as many people as we have, and knowing they wouldn’t social distance during the parade, if someone got sick, and God forbid something happened, we’d feel responsible,” Solomon said. “We felt like it made good sense for us to forgo it this year. When the numbers start going crazy, we gotta hunker down and pay attention.”

Mount Carmel Santa visit

It won’t be official until the BMA meets Thursday evening, but City Manager Mike Housewright told the Times News on Wednesday he’s 99% sure the Christmas parade and Santa Run won’t take place this year.

However, that doesn’t mean Santa isn’t coming to town. A new event called Mount Carmel Presents Santa at the Stage is scheduled for Dec. 12 from 1-3 p.m.

“We’re going to close off part of Main Street and have Santa up on the stage,” Housewright said. “People can drive by, wave at Santa, drop off their wish list to Santa, and we’ll have a way that he can safely dispense candy to the kids. Santa will be gloved up and he’ll drop candy down a magic candy cane, and it will come out the other end so that nobody touches it except the recipient.”

Church Hill’s Christmas Tour

Church Hill’s New Canton Plantation owners Hunter and Amanda Jackson have organized a Christmas Lights Challenge, calling on everyone in eastern Hawkins County and other nearby communities to put a little extra effort into their outdoor Christmas light decorations for a good cause.

Homeowners are asked to contribute $20 and business owners $30 to be considered in judging for the best decorated house and business of the year. All funds will go to the Of One Accord ministry.

For more information or to register your home or business for the contest, visit www.newcantonplantation.com.

On Tuesday Church Hill Mayor Dennis Deal announced the city Christmas parade was canceled due to the spike in COVID cases.

“I think it’s in the best interest of the city to do that,” Deal said. “Not having a parade is disappointing, but I think all the surrounding municipalities canceled theirs. I don’t know anyone around here that’s having one because of the virus. People will be disappointed, but we’ve canceled about everything we’ve had this year.”

Surgoinsville Parade canceled

Surgoinsville Mayor Merrell Graham told the Times News that he and Fire Chief Shane Suthers had decided to cancel the town’s Christmas parade.

In light of the surge in new COVID cases, and the fact that all other Hawkins County cities had canceled theirs as well, Graham said he feels that’s the right decision.