It may be the end of November but it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And will even more so this weekend with the arrival of holiday parades and special events.

Chilhowie will kick off the first of four county Christmas parades at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1. Originally scheduled to start at 1 p.m., the parade was backed up to accommodate the Chilhowie Warriors state semi-final football game that afternoon at Warrior Stadium.

Lineup for the parade will begin at 9 a.m. on Walton Avenue behind the former bank. Those interested in participating can just show up and get in line. The parade will begin at the intersection of Lee Highway and Highway 107 and proceed north along Lee Highway to Chilhowie High School.

A Christmas Bazaar will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the old high school community center with lots of holiday décor and gift ideas from local vendors. Santa will be there following the parade for photos with children. Bring a camera.

For more information or to register as a vendor for the bazaar, call the town hall at 646-3232 or visit www.chilhowie.org.

Saltville and Sugar Grove will host Christmas parades on Sunday, Dec. 2, at 3 p.m.

Grand marshal for the Saltville parade will be Brian Martin, town manager. Through his position with the Mount Rogers Planning District Commission, Martin served as interim town manager following the death of Mike Taylor. He was hired by the town this year as the new town manager.

Anyone interested is invited to participate in the Saltville parade with floats, vehicles and walking units. Lineup for the parade will take place at the Hardy Roberts VFW building on the Salt Trail starting at 2 p.m. Santa Claus will arrive aboard a Saltville Volunteer Department Fire Engine and after the parade will be on stage at the commons area to listen to children’s Christmas wishes and hand out treats. Bring a camera to get a photo of children with Santa.

A Christmas market will also be taking place in the town commons from around 12-6 p.m. with a variety of items from local vendors. The community tree lighting is scheduled to take place at 6:30 p.m. For more information, call the town hall at 496-5342.

The annual Sugar Grove Christmas Parade will go along Teas Road to the intersection with Highway 16 and end at Wharf Hill United Methodist Church. Participants will line up at the Sugar Grove Elementary School ball field beginning at 2 p.m.

Marion will do its parade a little bit differently. Like last year, the Rotary Kaleidoscope Christmas Parade will take place at night on Friday, Dec. 7, at 7 p.m.

Grand marshal will be Alice Neel. She has been a volunteer member of the Marion Life Saving Crew for more than 40 years, and at 76 is the oldest still-active member of emergency services in the state.

Neel is a cook at Marion Senior High School, where “she looks on all the students at the school as her own kids,” said her son Gary in his nomination for his mom. “She is doing what she loves in life, and it keeps her going on.”

Neel is a mother of three -- Barry, Gary and Terri Neel-Kinder – and has one granddaughter, Kimberly Neel Sharp, who she calls “the apple of my eye.” She is an active member of Calvary Baptist Church and a frequent attendee at Marion's Lincoln Theatre, where her aunt Lola Poston painted the original murals.

A cancer survivor, Gary said of his mom, “Every time, she has always managed to bounce back and still have the strength to live her life to help others.”

Neel’s daughter joins the family in congratulating her mother in the honor. 

“Mom is amazing, and I'm blessed to be called her daughter,” said Terri Neel-Kinder. “I want to be just like her.”

For the parade, traffic will be detoured on Dec. 7 beginning at 5:30 p.m. from Poston Street to Dabney Drive. Parking will be restricted along the parade route beginning at noon. The parade will go along Main Street through downtown from just below Blue Ridge Job Corps north to the high school.

Marion’s parade is part of the town’s kickoff to Christmas that begins on Thursday, Dec. 6, with “Merry Marion,” a downtown open house from 5-8 p.m. Participating merchants will stay open late with music, refreshments and special sales.

Friday kicks off a three-day Marion Christmas Market with dozens of vendors stretching from the farmers market to the Wayne C. Henderson School of Appalachian Arts. Seasonal themed foods and live music will be part of the event. Hours will be Friday 3-8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-7 p.m., and Sunday 12-5 p.m. Vendor applications are available by contacting Cyndi McCloskey at 276-378-5029 or cmccloskey@marionva.org. For additional information, visit www.marionva.org/events.

The Smyth County Chamber of Commerce is seeking community participation in several events, including a caroling group and home decoration.

Interested carolers can join in on Wednesday, Dec. 19. Practice will take place at the chamber office, 214 W. Main St. in Marion, at 12:30 p.m. before performing at Francis Marion Manor at 1:30 p.m. and Valley Health Care in Chilhowie at 2:30 p.m. No singing experience or registration needed.

The chamber encourages residents of Smyth County to celebrate the holiday season by decorating their homes for the annual Christmas Decorating Contest. The contest is open to any citizen whose home is in Smyth County. Judging will take place Dec. 8-15 from 6-9 p.m. and will be conducted by the chamber’s Area Beautification Committee.

The criteria for judging will be creativity, holiday spirit and overall beauty with prizes for the top three: $100 for first place, $50 for second place, and $25 for third place.

Deadline to register is Friday, Dec. 7, by 3 p.m. Call 783-3161 or register online at https://fs26.formsite.com/smythchamber/form4/index.html

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