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Volunteers create ‘river of light,’ send J-O-Y through Lake Junaluska Christmas decorations


With support from more than 80 volunteers, many of whom were enlisted by Nancy and Roger Geyer when they started decorating at Lake Junaluska in 1999, the Lake has been transformed into a winter wonderland with lights, greenery and big red bows.

New this year are lighted wire sculpture deer in the Lake’s Biblical Garden near the Bethea Welcome Center, at the Lake Junaluska sign at the east entrance, and on two private lawns on the lakeshore.  In addition to the deer decorations, donated by Jody Lipscomb, the lakeside Rose Walk for the second year is featuring lighted greenery to complement the lighted wreaths on the 57 stone posts.

“The 1,700 feet of the decorated rails resembles a ‘river of light’ at night along the lakeshore,” said Lake Junaluska residents Don and Pat Rankin in a shared statement.

For the past five years, the Rankins have coordinated volunteers from the Junaluskans, an organization made up of people who love Lake Junaluska, in decorating the Lake for the holidays. They had volunteered with the annual decorating initiative since first moving to the Lake in 2008, and they are now stepping down as coordinators and welcoming Linda and Randy Carlson to lead the Junaluskans’ Christmas decorating teams.

“These five years have been filled with challenges and opportunities,” said the Rankins who set a goal of bringing more lights to the grounds. “Through the generosity of the Junaluskans and the encouragement of LJA (Lake Junaluska Assembly) leadership, we believe we have made progress with that goal.”

Another achievement has been the addition of the 8-foot-tall “JOY” letters to the display. The decoration was crafted from a pattern acquired in 2018.

“We had no idea how we would get them made, or where they would go on campus,” said the Rankins. They sent out a community email and, within 10 minutes, Jay Langford had volunteered to make them. Then thanks to Del Copeland, the giant message of joy found a place in front of the Lake Junaluska Apartments near the main entrance, enabling all who enter to see them right away.

“The goal was to make a witness to residents and visitors alike, (so) as folks enter the grounds, they would be reminded of the JOY that is to be found in this place,” said the Rankins. “In the face of the raging virus, all of us are struggling with a need to know more joy. The JOY letters and the other decorations around the campus – put up by dedicated volunteers – help make this witness possible.”

The Carlsons, who have been helping with decorations since moving to Lake Junaluska in 2014, have been working closely with the Rankins this year as they prepare to lead the decorating effort next year.

“Hearing the positive comments of people as we worked with Don and Pat and other volunteers has been so motivating,” said the Carlsons in a shared statement. “Especially during this time of COVID, lifting people's spirits has become paramount. The Lake has always been a place where people come for hope, inspiration, rest and reflection. We hope that people will come to the Lake to see the work accomplished by a myriad of volunteer community members to help lift spirits during this time of COVID and share the JOY of Christmas. As people walk the Lake, and especially as they pass the Nativity Scene in front of the Chapel, our hope as Christians is that they will experience the Light and Hope of this season that comes because of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Lodging guests as well as day visitors are invited to see the decorations on the Lake Junaluska grounds and Walking Trail, which is open to all with no admission charge. For more information, visit


Lake Junaluska Communications
Lake Junaluska