A blast from the past: Hazelwood draped in canopy of overhead lights

Nov. 23—For the first time in four decades, Hazelwood's Christmas lights have made a full return to their former glory.

Colorful strands of lights zigzag above Hazelwood Avenue for nearly half a mile, creating a dazzling overhead canopy. The lights cast a fitting retro-vibe over Hazelwood, a throwback to their 1950s' origin.

"Everyone wanted to see those lights come back," said Alex McKay, the unofficial mayor of Hazelwood. "Hazelwood natives were just delighted. That's who it has meant the most to, the people who remembered them."

Stringing the 4,000-feet of light strands was a labor-intensive undertaking for Waynesville electrical crews, taking about a week. Aside from making sure they were securely fastened to each light pole, trees along Hazelwood Avenue had to be trimmed back in spots.

"They also had to put all the lightbulbs in the individual sockets," McKay said.

Yup, that's right. The 1,000 or so bulbs came separately.

The lights are unlike any other holiday display in Haywood County.

"It's another way Hazelwood has its own personality," McKay said.

Last year, the overhead lights made their first debut through the business district of Hazelwood — an idea championed by Hazelwood old-timer Peggy Hannah. This year, the project came full circle with the addition of lights along the residential section, as well.

Christmas lights criss-crossing above the street were introduced by former Hazelwood Mayor Clyde Fisher in the 1950s. This year, as fate would have it, the lights were plugged in for the first time on the birthday of Fisher's daughter, Mary Ann Enloe — also a long-time mayor of Hazelwood who lives along Hazelwood Avenue.

"When Mary Ann came out on her porch the evening of her birthday, she started crying because the lights were up," McKay said. "It's a unique feeling when something so simple means so much, and this strand of lights means a great deal to the people in Hazelwood."

The lights were purchased by the town of Waynesville, with this year's addition partially funded by a grant from the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority. The unique overhead design is permitted on Hazelwood Avenue because it's a town street and doesn't fall under the purview of the Department of Transportation.