Lake Junaluska, N.C. - If you walk around Lake Junaluska, you’ll see lighted wreaths along the Rose Walk, lights and garlands at Inspiration Point and Christmas trees at The Terrace. More than 40 local volunteers worked together to carry on the decades-old tradition of decorating Lake Junaluska for Christmas.
“This community is involved and the unity here is wonderful,” said Lake Junaluska community member Don Rankin, who led the decorating efforts this year with his wife Pat. “This is what we do. I think this sense of community is unique when compared with other places.”
This is the Rankins’ first time leading the Christmas decorating. For the previous 17 years, it was led by Nancy Geyer and her late husband Roger.
“Christmas was always important to us,” said Geyer, who helped with decorations this year. “We’ve always done elaborate decorations. We had an open house every year. When we came here we wanted to do the same thing for the lake because it meant so much to us.”
The decorations were made possible by the Junaluskans, a service and fundraising group at Lake Junaluska. The crew also received help from Lake Junaluska staff.
“We are so grateful for the countless hours the volunteers and staff spends preparing for and decorating Lake Junaluska,” said Jack Ewing, executive director for Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center. “Lake Junaluska is a beautiful place all year round, but people love coming here at Christmas.”
The decorations make a big impact. Every December more than a thousand visitors come to Lake Junaluska for the annual Appalachian Christmas event. This year thousands more came for the Balsam Range Art of Music Festival. The volunteers said they hope the decorations bring more people to the lake.
“I remember coming here years ago at Christmas time and it was just like a fairyland,” Pat Rankin said. “We think it’s a drawing card. We know that a lot of people come here just at Christmas and we want it to be at its peak.”
Throughout the years, the staff and volunteers said they have received numerous comments and feedback about how much the decorations mean to people. Residents of surrounding towns make visits to Lake Junaluska during this time a staple of the season, and their visits are encouraged by staff and residents.
“We’re just a group of people who live here and love the lake,” Don Rankin said. “We want the conference center to thrive and anything we can do to make the experience more valuable for the people who visit the lake, that’s what we want to do.”
For the volunteers themselves, this is an opportunity to reconnect with old friends, serve their community and help carry on a treasured Lake Junaluska tradition– all while having fun.
“It is part of Christmas for my wife and I,” Don Rankin said. “We’ve been decorating for eight years. It’s really fun to be able to work with your neighbors and put together something beautiful– not just for us, but for everyone.”
Lake Junaluska is a place of Christian hospitality where lives are transformed through renewal of soul, mind and body. For more information about Lake Junaluska, visit www.lakejunaluska.com.
Appalachian Christmas at Lake Junaluska
All concerts are in Stuart Auditorium at Lake Junaluska
Handel's Messiah, featuring a local choir and orchestra
Friday, Dec. 9
Appalachian Christmas Craft Show
Saturday, Dec. 10
9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Harrell Center Auditorium
The Cockman Family in Concert
Saturday, Dec. 10
Point of Grace Concert
Saturday, Dec. 10