ELLIJAY, Ga – Anyone watching social media for our local area on Friday saw part of the major crowds overfilling the downtown area for Light Up Ellijay.
In fact, the event grew so much over recent years, officials were forced to call in extra help to direct the crowd. The parade saw a minor delay to start as crowds spilled out into the street, having nowhere to stand. By the time of the tree lighting at 5:30 p.m., the crowd had deadlocked traffic with some even parking and stepping out of their vehicles for 30 seconds to watch the lighting.
Vendors set up onto Broad Street while First Baptist Church of Ellijay brought the town of Bethlehem to the area with a staged area in their rear parking lot. Hosting people in full costume, complete with Roman solders, basket weavers, shepherds and even an angel or two, the town brought the ancient times to life as visitors were even asked to sign the “census” upon entering the fenced area.
Even more poured into the downtown boardwalk as the Grinch himself made an appearance for photos and children. Santa and Mrs. Claus met kids as well on the courthouse steps for photos before all of them retreated to Ellijay Elementary School to prepare for the parade.
The Grinch came as a part of this year’s Whoville theme. Citizens, visitors and parade walkers alike all dressed for the occasion, adding a whimsical look to the already decorated tree and town.
As time drew near for the night time festivities, those in the vendor area, Bethlehem and boardwalk all began moving towards the roundabout, forcing many to stand out in the street.
One family said they had set up their seats on the roundabout at 2:30 p.m. However, that family, and others, were disappointed as no one but the kids in front sat to watch the parade. Some onlookers complained of the crowds saying they wouldn’t be returning next year. Others wouldn’t let the crowd dampen their spirits, instead welcoming them saying they have never seen the city so popular.
Indeed, so many people came downtown that extra hands like Gilmer County Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett voluntarily joined the city police to aid in crowd control. Although no official count could be made, estimates from city police officers soared from 10,000 to 15,000 people before the night had concluded. Festivities began around noon and continued late into the night with Abby’s Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt hosting a dance party in their parking area immediately after the parade.
An overall amazing year brought the crowds out, but is also causing the city to retreat for meetings to respond. A number of people that downtown Ellijay has not experienced at one time during even the Apple Festival Weekends has called for officials to rethink plans for next year.
FYN has requested comments from officials on the night and Ellijay Chief of Police Edward Lacey has already agreed to speak with FYN once their meetings this week conclude.
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