HOT SPRINGS — The Christmas tree adorning the Great Hall at The Omni Homestead this holiday season has a local flavor.
This year’s tree was 21 feet tall with a 15-foot circumference and was donated by Kathleen Knighton.
Mrs. Knighton, 95, resides in the Clearview Estates section of Alleghany County. The tree had been in the front yard since she moved into her present home in 2001.
Counting the rings on the tree, it was likely planted in the early to mid-1980s.
For many years, Mrs. Knighton’s daughter, Karen Mays, and her husband, Britt, would decorate the tree, but eventually it grew too big for them to decorate.
“It got so big,” Mrs. Knighton said. “It used to be beautiful in the yard.”
Squeezing the massive tree through a four-foot door proved to be quite a challenge for Homestead personnel.
“They had a tug-of-war, literally, getting it through that four-foot door,” Mrs. Mays said.
But with that hurdle cleared, Mrs. Knighton and several of her family members lit the tree in a private ceremony Wednesday morning. Due to COVID protocols limiting gatherings to 25 people or less, this year’s tree lighting ceremony was scaled back from previous years when large crowds have been known to assemble for the festivities.
Despite the smaller crowd, Mrs. Knighton and her family enjoyed the festivities. They were treated to lunch and enjoyed a carriage ride during their day at The Homestead.
For Mrs. Knighton, it was her first visit to the Hot Springs resort.
“I’d never been there,” she said. “That was real nice.”
Mrs. Knighton also enjoyed seeing herself in a segment that appeared on WSLS-TV Thursday.
“I got to see it on TV,” she added.
The pomp and circumstance surrounding the Christmas tree lighting and her day at The Omni Homestead left quite an impression on Mrs. Knighton — and her family members who were able to attend the ceremony. Mrs. Knighton’s family includes four children, five grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.
“I think she thoroughly enjoyed it,” Mrs. Mays said.
In breaking tradition by selecting a tree with local ties for this year’s Great Hall celebration, The Omni Homestead also started a new tradition in 2020 with the lighting of the tree on the East Lawn.
The outdoor tree lighting was held on Tuesday evening.
Long-time friends of The Homestead and Golf & Tennis Club members, Samantha and John Vardaman, along with their children, Mary and Jack, were the honored guests for this inaugural celebration.
The Christmas tree in the Great Hall at The Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs was donated by Kathleen Knighton of Clearview Estates in Alleghany County. Mrs. Knighton is pictured with her family members who attended the tree lighting ceremony Wednesday. From left, Mrs. Knighton’s son, Larry, and his wife, Georgie, of Eagle Rock; Mrs. Knighton; her daughter, Karen Mays, and her husband, Britt, of Covington. (Photo Courtesy The Omni Homestead Resort)