LYNDA EVJEN and a group of local business owners came together in 2007 with an idea to incorporate a Gingerbread competition into the annual Sumner County (SC) Christmas Parade. From those humble beginnings emerged the much-loved annual HolidayFest, which has now contributed an astounding $3.9 million to local charities. Events, spanning from July through February, infuse countless dollars into our local economy, as well as provide affordable, family-friendly events to over 25,000 people right here inside our county.
Evjen said, “HolidayFest connects people, businesses, government, and service organizations. Our activities have two primary benefits: to monetarily help worthy nonprofit causes while bringing substantial business and tourism dollars to the community. HolidayFest does this by attracting thousands of visitors to celebrate the spirit of the season.”
HolidayFest has a board of 18 members, including several honorary chairs and five executive board members. Over the past 18 years, these members have worked alongside 250 charities to raise funds and awareness of needs within our community.
In 2022, HolidayFest raised $158,000, and with over 15 scheduled events, this year is expected to make an even more significant positive impact. Events also contribute to local food banks providing nourishment to over 5,000 families. Nonprofits who will benefit this year include Community Child Care Services Inc., Mary’s Magical Place, Live. Love. Nashville, Christmas 4 Kids, Hendersonville High School, Special Needs Sports Foundation, Wreaths Across America, CASA, Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center, the senior citizens center, Football for the Cure, P22 Project, Habitat for Humanity of SC, The Care Cabinet, COMPASS, SC Museum, and the Gallatin Shalom Zone.
This year, the “Sleigh Bells Ring” themed Christmas parade will usher in the season with William Michael Morgan as grand marshal and Holly Thompson as emcee. Morgan is a country music singer-songwriter, and a native of Vicksburg, Mississippi. His single, “I Met a Girl,” hit No. 2 on the Country Airplay chart and earned a Billboard Top 5. He has performed over 50 times on the Grand Ole Opry and was featured in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2017.
Previous grand marshals include Charlene Tilton, Brenda Lee, Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, and Diamond Rio. Honorary chairs since 2006 include national award-winning singer-songwriter Kelly Lang, country music superstars Lori Morgan, Louise Mandrell, Julie Roberts, John Carter Cash, and Ricky Scaggs, along with legendary bluegrass singers Marty Stuart and the Isaacs.
Festivities kick off months before the holiday season, with the Gentlemen’s Committee Poker and Celebrate Tennessee in October. It will end in February with Monte Carlo Night at the Hendersonville Senior Center.
Other HolidayFest fundraisers included Pig Fest in October, which has an annual attendance of around 15,000 and raised funds for Mary’s Magical Place, Live. Love. Nashville, and other local nonprofits. Featuring barbecue and corn hole competitions, the Kentucky Headhunters, Dillon Carmichael, Clint Park, Ben Chapman, and Charly Reynolds, this event was “Hog Heaven.” In November, the Sparkle Noel Dinner and Fashion Show raised funds and awareness for The Care Cabinet, which provides hygiene products to local students. Also, in November, Monthaven Art and Cultural Center held its yearly Christmas Tree Elegance cocktail reception and silent auction.
Community Child Care Services presented Breakfast with Santa at the Bluegrass Yacht and Country Club. Participants received breakfast, individual photos with the big guy himself, and took part in thrilling holiday activities. Attendees were asked to bring a new and unwrapped gift, which was donated to children in foster care. Tickets to this event were also provided to dozens of underprivileged children. Fogbee’s Santa Bike Brigade also donated toys to children in local foster care.
“HolidayFest is important to our community and does so much for charities. We support and honor the efforts they all make to help our county be a wonderful place during the holidays,” said former County Executive Anthony Holt. GN