Rhea County will step back in time to a simpler way of life at the annual horse and carriage Christmas parade presented by MainStreet Dayton on Saturday, Dec. 3. This year’s theme, “Joy to the World,” was chosen in honor of the parade’s Grand Marshals, Bryan College President Stephen Livesay and his wife Corinne.
Dr. and Mrs. Livesay Parade coordinators choose the theme according to what they feel represents the community’s happenings in the past year. This year, the theme is “Joy to the World.” With the completion of Bryan College’s new entrance this fall and Bryan’s expanding campus, Livesay was chosen to honor his achievements in bringing an international aspect to Rhea County through its programs and students.
“We always try to make hometown heroes the focus of the parade, particularly in the selection of its theme,” said Jenny Nevans, grand-niece of the parade’s founder, Kitty McDonald Groves, and board member of MainStreet Dayton. “With this year’s theme being “Joy to the World,” we felt it appropriate to honor Dr. Livesay because Bryan College brings so many people to the area.”
Livesay said that being selected for Grand Marshal of the parade caught him “totally off guard,” but he “feels very honored because it’s a great tradition and we’ve always enjoyed the parade.”
According to his bio, Livesay is the seventh president of Bryan College, taking on that role in February 2003. Prior to serving as president, he brought 10 years of administrative and teaching experience at Belhaven University in Jackson, Miss., and seven years teaching experience at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.
Corinne Livesay is Bryan’s director of web communications and also teaches in the online and onsite degree completion program. Before coming to Bryan, she taught and was an administrator at Mississippi College and Liberty University.
Livesay said that during their time in Rhea County, Dayton has become home to both he and his wife, as well as their three grown children.
“All my kids consider Dayton their home — they don’t ever want us to move,” he said. “We’ve made so many friends. People here are so genuinely kind and have continued to welcome us here. It’s been a blessing for us to get involved in community activities.”
Kathy Griffin, MainStreet Dayton board member and one of the coordinators for the parade, said that Livesay’s work at Bryan has brought students and faculty into the area from all over the world and is expanding the campus and its services, demonstrating that expansion particularly through the new entrance.
“He’s done a lot to bring the community and the college together, an example of that being the scholarships now offered to Rhea County students,” said Griffin. “He’s quietly outstanding in our community.”
Livesay said that the college continues to expand. This coming spring, a new set of townhouses will be built next to the current ones, the arboretum will continue to be developed with trails and Rudd auditorium will undergo major renovations.
Christmas at the Courthouse, which includes the horse and carriage parade, was originally started in an effort to return to the simplicity of the season amidst the commercialization now associated with the season. Today, the tradition continues.
Nevans said that the event is a “response of simplicity.”
“We want those who attend [Christmas at the Courthouse] to slow down and appreciate Jesus’ birth in a simple way,” she said. “The program will include a very traditional Christmas. The Christmas story will be read, there will be a living nativity and carols associated with Jesus’ birth.”
Griffin sees the parade as “quaint and well-purposed, as well as a means to keep history alive.”
Christmas at the Courthouse will feature the horse and carriage parade, a Christmas Critters pageant, photos with Santa, music on the courthouse lawn and a candlelight service with caroling at the courthouse following the parade. The event begins at 2 p.m. with the pageant.
Unique to this year’s event will be Brunch with Santa, hosted by the Rhea County United Way from noon to 2 p.m. at the Rhea County Welcome Center. Cost is $15 a person for brunch and a special meeting and photo with Santa. An $11 ticket includes brunch and a meeting with Santa, but no photo. To make reservations, call 775-5633.
Those interested in participating in the Christmas Critters contest or the horse and carriage Christmas Parade can contact Anna Tromanhauser executive director, MainStreet Dayton at 423-775-9847 or firstname.lastname@example.org. They can also drop by the welcome center at 107 Main St. in Dayton or visit the web here.