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Christmas Season Begins as Charles Dalton Lights Tree at Blue Ridge Electric
New Plaque Tells History of Christmas Tree and Tree-Lighting Ceremony
By Karen Brewer, Publisher


Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Jim and Denise Lovinggood and Charles and Libby Dalton are pictured with the new plaque telling the history of the Deodar Cedar tree that is in front of the Pickens headquarters of Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative. Lovinggood and Dalton unveiled the plaque during the tree-lighting ceremony that kicks off the Christmas season for the Pickens area. Dalton, who retired in January after 36 years as President and CEO, was asked by Lovinggood, the new President and CEO, to return and have the honors of lighting the Christmas tree this year. Dalton began the tree-lighting ceremony in 1982, and each year the event draws a crowd. During this year's ceremony, Rev. Jamie Duncan, Pastor of East Pickens Baptist Church, gave the meditation, and Ashley Dodgens, Choir Director of Pickens Presbyterian Church, sang a selection of Christmas songs. Terry Ballenger, Vice President of Communications for Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative, gave the invocation. Read The Christian View magazine's article and view 30 photos below.




Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative President and CEO Jim Lovinggood, at left, and Charles Dalton, who served as Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative's President and CEO from 1982 until his retirement in January, are pictured with the new plaque telling the history of the Deodar Cedar tree at the Pickens headquarters of Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative. Lovinggood and Dalton unveiled the plaque during the 2018 Christmas tree-lighting ceremony.



Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Charles and Libby Dalton are pictured with the new plaque telling the history of the Deodar Cedar tree in front of the Pickens headquarters of Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative. Dalton said that he remembers the tree being lit for Christmas from the time he was a small boy. When he became President and CEO in 1982, he initiated a special tree-lighting ceremony, which each year has signaled the beginning of the Christmas season for the Pickens area.



Charles Dalton, who retired in January after 36 years as Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative’s President and CEO, returned for the honors of lighting the majestic Christmas tree in front of Blue Ridge Electric’s office in Pickens. Dalton remembers seeing the tree adorned with Christmas lights from the time that he was a small boy, but it was Dalton who initiated the special tree-lighting ceremony when he became President and CEO in 1982. The evening of this year’s tree-lighting service, a special plaque was unveiled which commemorates the history of the tree and the history of the tree-lighting ceremony.

Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative President and CEO Jim Lovinggood welcomed the crowd to the ceremony, which is always a special event looked forward to by the Pickens community.

“Let me officially welcome you here,” Lovinggood greeted the crowd gathered for the special occasion. “We certainly appreciate you being here and being a part of what has become a very big tradition here at Blue Ridge and, I think, even for the community of Pickens. So, thank you for being a part of that tonight. At this time, I’m going to ask our Vice President of Communications, Terry Ballenger, if he will come forward and offer an invocation.”

Ballenger then opened the ceremony with prayer. “Let us pray. Lord, thank you for bringing us all together here for this celebration, for this unofficial kickoff of the Christmas season here at Blue Ridge and in the town of Pickens and the greater Pickens area. And, Father, we just want to make sure we stay focused on the real meaning of Christmas, and we ask you to bless all of those that have a part in the program tonight, as we seek to do that. And we’ll ask that in the name of your son, the Prince of Peace.”

Lovinggood then introduced members of the Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative Board of Directors who were present for the special ceremony, a group of men he said are special to him and to everyone there: Chair Joel Davis from Oconee County, Vice Chair Spencer Dalton from Pickens County, Secretary Len Talley from Oconee County, Treasurer Frank Looper from Pickens County, Ben Bolt from Anderson County, Kenneth Southerlin from Greenville County, Jimmy Lee Dodgens from Pickens County, William Elrod from Pickens County, and Mendel Stone from Oconee County.

“We also have some special guests here tonight,” Lovinggod said, as he introduced State Representative Neal Collins, Pickens Police Chief Travis Riggs, Pickens Mayor David Owens, State Representative Gary Clary, Pickens County Sheriff Rick Clark, State Representative Davey Hiott of Pickens, Judge Perry Gravely, retired Pickens County Clerk of Court Oliver Nealy, retired Pickens County Sheriff David Stone, Pickens City Council member Donna Owen, Pickens County Council member Chris Bowers, State Senator Rex Rice, Pickens County Clerk of Court Pat Welborn, and Pickens City Council member Patti Welborn.

Lovinggood pointed out that one of the things special about Christmas is Christmas music, and he introduced Ashley Dodgens, Music Director for Pickens Presbyterian Church, who sang a selection of three songs: “Silent Night,” “Merry Christmas, Darling,” and “Joy to the World,” asking the audience to join with her in singing the first and last songs.

Lovinggood then noted that a Christmas meditation is always a tradition for each tree-lighting ceremony and said, “So, at this time, I’m going to ask Rev. Jamie Duncan, who is the Pastor of East Pickens Baptist Church, to come forward and deliver that for us.”

Duncan noted how beautiful the Christmas music was. “Thank you so much for leading us in that and reminding us truly of the reason of the season.

“And I appreciate this company leading out in that and helping us to remind ourselves of the true meaning of Christmas,” he added.

“So, if I can combine Thanksgiving with Christmas in this moment, and be thankful for the true reason for Christmas. And the true meaning of Christmas is that we celebrate that Jesus Christ came down to this earth for us.

“I want to read to you from Matthew chapter 1. It describes the time when Joseph and Mary find out that they’re having a child. It says that, after all this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophets, that the virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel, which means ‘God with us.’ That is a quote actually from the book of Isaiah, the prophet that had foretold many centuries before Jesus arrived, to tell them that there would be one who would be from God who would come to this earth.

“And so, I want you to think for just a moment and be thankful for this Jesus who came to embody God with us. God with us. Why is that so important, that we would celebrate that God came to us? Well, I think, for one, it’s for us to be able to associate with God. You see, God had been at a distance. God had been at a safe distance from the people. And we are told in the scriptures that Jesus came, and He came as a servant. And He came to ‘walk a mile’, figuratively, ‘walk a mile in our shoes.’ He put on humanity. God put on humanity for us, so that, literally, we would know that He understands what it means to be human. You see, Jesus came so that He might ‘walk a mile in our shoes’ and find out what it really means to be human. Do you realize that Jesus was tempted in every way, just like us? The beauty is that we know that Jesus never sinned. That’s important, because Jesus came as a sacrifice for our sins. But I think it’s also important for us to see that Jesus came to this earth so that He might comfort us. You see, after Jesus walked on the earth, Jesus was able to look us in the eyes and say, ‘I know what it’s like to be where you are, and I know what it’s like to have loss. I know what it’s like to be hurt. I know what it’s like to feel pain. I know what it’s like to feel hunger. And yet I love you, and I want to walk with you wherever you are.’

“Let me just say this. Wherever you find yourself today, I want you to know that God wants to be with you. He wants to walk with you through your life. For some of us, the holidays are a great time of celebration, but, for some of us, the holidays are a time for sadness. It’s time for us to remind ourselves of maybe a time that was, or family that we had. And I just want you to know during this season that God wants to be with you. How do I know that? Because Jesus came to associate with us. And His Holy Spirit, even in this moment, can minister to us as we are hurting. And Jesus came so that He might associate with us in our hurting.

“The last thing I want to say is that, when we say God is with us, it’s a reminder that Jesus came to save us. You see, the name ‘Jesus’ literally means ‘one who brings about salvation’, ‘our God who saves.’ And Jesus came, yes, to associate with us, but Jesus came to do the very thing that we could not do for ourselves. That is, to pay the price for our sins. And I’m so grateful. And I’m thankful, in this season, for Jesus, God with us, who came to this earth and who died on the cross. But I can say this, with all authority and confidence, that, when Jesus died on the cross, He didn’t stay in the grave. Three days later, on Easter Sunday morning, Jesus rose from the grave. And that’s what we can celebrate, even in the beginning of the season, what Jesus accomplished for us. God with us. Amen.”

Lovinggood then spoke of the importance of the Christmas tree to the Pickens community. “If you know anything about Blue Ridge and the Pickens community, this tree has been a very important part of our history for a very long time,” he said, noting that the tree has been lit for Christmas for more than 50 years. “But it wasn’t until 1982 that we began to have a ceremony like we’re having tonight, to actually have an official lighting,” he said. “And that happened when Charles Dalton became President and CEO, back in 1982. So it’s only fitting to ask Charles to come back, in his first year of retirement, to officially light the tree.

“Before I turn it over to Charles to light the tree, I want to ask him to help me unveil a plaque,” Lovinggood added, as he noted the significance of the history of the tree and the tree-lighting ceremony. “That plaque is there in honor of Blue Ridge and in honor of Charles for this tree-lighting ceremony that he started 36 years ago.”

Lovinggood then read the plaque: “ ‘The Deodar Cedar that stands in front of the Blue Ridge headquarters in Pickens has been lit in recognition of the Christmas season for over 50 years. This large conifer was spared the bulldozer’s blade during the construction of the Pickens Office in 1953. When Charles E. Dalton became President and CEO in 1982, he began the tradition of holding a tree-lighting ceremony to bring the Pickens Community together during the holiday season. This tree has become a mainstay at Blue Ridge Electric and in the Pickens community as a whole.’ ”

“You’re just full of surprises, Jim,” said Dalton. “Wow. That is very nice, and I’m most appreciative. I think Jamie set the stage, when he talked about tonight being a night of thanksgiving. I certainly stand here with a lot of thanks to a lot of people. I thank you so much for that. Jim, thank you for inviting me to come back and have this honor to light the tree. I thank the staff. I thank this outstanding Board of Directors for supporting me the 36 years that I was here. I thank all of the employees who contributed to what success that we had here. It was certainly because of their dedication. I’ve told many folks our employees do not look at working at Blue Ridge as a job. It’s a commitment, and it’s something that they believe in. It’s something that they love to do. And I don’t think anybody here has just a job. They have a commitment to serve you. I want to thank you, the community, elected officials, members of Blue Ridge Co-op, folks who do business in and around here. Thank you for being here, and thank you for supporting Blue Ridge Co-op for all these years, and thank you for the 36 years that you supported me while I was here.

“A couple of things about the tree comes to my mind. As most of you know, I grew up in the Mile Creek community, which is seven miles out in the country. I told folks you can grow up in downtown Pickens, and you’d be in the country, but I grew up seven miles out in the country. Of course, we’d come to Pickens to do most of our business, and, if we were going anywhere, we came by here, and I remember seeing this tree lighted from the time that I was a small boy. So, this tree has always been significant to me.

“The other thing about the tree is trying to make sure we didn’t kill it, because I did understand that my job was gone if I killed this tree. So, we did some construction around it. We doctored it. We did trimming. And every time we trimmed it, we all tensed up a little bit. Thank God it survived, and I do thank the Lord for this beautiful tree.

“And then there was one other part of this tree that has always been a little bit stressful for me. And that’s whether or not the lights were going to come on. Guess what. Tonight, that’s not my problem. I care whether the lights come on or not. But if they don’t come on, you’re going to look at somebody else. You’re not going to be looking at me.”

Dalton then officially lit the tree, with its many multi-colored lights, to the applause and cheers of the crowd. 

Lovinggood thanked everyone for coming and invited the crowd to remain and fellowship and enjoy refreshments of hot chocolate, coffee, and cookies.

You can drive by the Pickens headquarters of Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative, located at 734 West Main Street, and view the beautiful, majestic tree lit for Christmas throughout the Christmas season.


Below, view photos below of the crowd fellowshipping before the ceremony (including retired Pickens County Sheriff David Stone and his wife, Donna, retired Pickens County Clerk of Court Oliver Nealy and his wife, Dianne, Pickens Police Chief Travis Riggs, South Carolina State Representative Davey Hiott of Pickens, former Pickens City Council members Connie and June Bowers, Judge Perry Gravely, and State Rep. Neal Collins).

View photos from the ceremony, including Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative President and CEO Jim Lovinggood welcoming the crowd, Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative Vice President of Communications Terry Ballenger giving the invocation, the Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative Board of Directors, Pickens Presbyterian Church Choir Director Ashley Dodgens singing Christmas music, East Pickens Baptist Church Pastor Rev. Jamie Duncan giving the meditation message, Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative retired President and CEO Charles Dalton unveiling the plaque with Lovinggood, and Dalton lighting the tree. 

View photos following the ceremony, including of Lovingood and Dalton, State Rep. Davey Hiott, and members of the Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative Board of Directors. 


All Photos by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine