By ANNA SAGO KINGSPORT —
For many local families, taking a tour of the elaborate Christmas decorations at the historic Allandale Mansion is a holiday tradition. In a normal year, the mansion is filled with festive cheer in the form of 40 elegantly decorated Christmas trees, as well as hundreds of lights, garland, and other ornaments.
However, amidst concerns regarding social distancing and limiting group sizes within the mansion, the Friends of Allandale has been forced to reimagine Allandale’s Christmas festivities for the 2020 season.
“We do not want to be a hotspot for the spread of this stuff,” said curator Rod Gemayel. Instead of inviting guests inside the home, the mansion staff plans to move the decorations outdoors.
The exterior of the mansion will be richly decorated, including the front, back, and many of the small exterior features and monuments. Guests are invited to enjoy the splendor of Allandale at Christmas from the safety of their vehicles in drive-thru style. Lights around the house will come on at sunset and remain on until about 11 p.m.
The public is invited to visit anytime until the end of the year, although more decorations will be put up throughout December. Unlike the indoor tours, there will be no charge for the drive-thru visits.
“We said, ‘What could we do for the community, for people to enjoy?’ and Friends of Allandale stepped up to the plate and said, ‘Instead of decorating the inside, let’s decorate the outside,’ ” said Gemayel. “We’re cutting new ground here. It’s something that we’re not familiar with. We’ve learned a lot.” After the 2020 season, Allandale staff plans to continue decorating the exterior of the mansion for families who wish to drive through rather than — or in addition to — enjoy the regular indoor tours.
In a typical year, Allandale’s Christmas decorations are sponsored by a variety of businesses and individuals throughout the community in exchange for a plaque on one of the many trees located throughout the mansion. Though this was not a possibility this year, Allandale staff and the Friends of Allandale organization would like to thank these sponsors in this especially difficult season, without whom they would not be able to share these beautiful outdoor decorations with the community: Armstrong