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Mother, daughter team up to bring the holiday spirit back to Newport

7:02 PM, Oct 15, 2012   |    comments
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Take one glance around Newport, and one thing is clear -- the residents love their holidays.

Pumpkins, mums and corn stalks adorn poles, steps and sidewalks across the city.

"It's a community which, you know everybody here, and you have the familiar faces," said Kellye Stokely, a lifelong resident. "It is a friendly town."

But, last year, the holiday spirit was sucked right out of the town when the city's utility poles, usually adorned with holiday lights, were bare.

"It's like the Grinch who stole Christmas, and he never returned the lights to us," Stokely said.

The problem -- the lights weren't exactly lifting spirits anymore.

"The older decorations are over 20 years old, and they're very weather-worn and beaten, and, over the years, several organizations and clubs and people have tried to restore them, and it's just been a very impossible task to do that," Stokely said. "We've just not had the finances here with the city or the county, either one, to put towards that. We have other needs that need to be met."

Still, Stokely decided to do something about it. She enlisted the help of her daughter, Sarah, and went to the city council to make a proposal.

She pitched the idea of a community project, where she would taken in donations to pay for new lights for the city. Council members agreed and kicked off the effort by pitching in $4,000.

"It's something very positive that we can bring to Newport, and it puts a smile on everyone's faces to see all the different lights like you would see in Gatlinburg," said Sarah Stokely, who recently won the Miss Greene County pageant and will go on to compete in Miss Tennessee.

Of course, her platform was "Commit to Your Community," so she's stepping up to make the project happen. She and her mom are calling it "Light Up the Holidays."

"It's a representation of our town, it shows you what kind of community involvement we have within our town, and, no, it's not feeding the hungry or helping the Children's Miracle Network, but it's something to help our town look like a place that you would want to be at," Sarah Stokely said.

Kellye Stokely checked in with the folks in Pigeon Forge and eventually placed an order for 32 lights in the shapes of bells, wreaths, angels and snowflakes. One more was a free sample.

"It helps tourism, it helps our attitude towards the town, and brings the spirit of Christmas to Cocke County," she said.

Each light costs $635, and some organizations have stepped up to "adopt" an entire pole, while others in the community have contributed money toward the light fund. Some are contributing in honor of lost loved ones by purchasing the angel lights.

The lights will go up along Broadway in downtown Newport, on the bridge over the Pigeon River, and near I-40 Exit 435.

"I am very excited. Christmas is one of my favorite holidays, and I love seeing the lights, and I love the music, so it's gonna be something great for our community," Sarah Stokely said.

Anyone who would like to contribute can contact Kellye Stokely at either 423-237-0827 or 423-623-3599.


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