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Merry Christmas!

blog22It has been a while since I last wrote a blog. The reason has simply been that we’ve been busy with the Polar Express. For any who may not know of this event, the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad turns into the magical train ride to the North Pole, based on the popular book and movie. Since November 6, kids of all ages have been converging on Bryson City for the ride. At last count, I understood that around 40,000 will ride the train over this six week period.

For the past few years, we have offered a package for folks wanting to ride the train. It has been very successful, but it is also very different from the rest of the year. The folks come for just one night, ride the train, and go home the next morning. They usually don’t eat dinner with us since that conflicts with the times of the train ride, and breakfast is sometimes a buffet (on weekends, we can have up to 100 guests). This is certainly not a normal Hemlock Inn experience, but it is still one of the most joyful times of the year for us. The kids are very young and have an absolute ball on the train and love to tell everyone about it who will listen….and we love to listen.

I think we all need to step back sometime and just watch and listen to the children, especially at Christmas. Their wonderful level of excitement and pure joy is contagious. They don’t care about the economy, or schedules, or politics….they just enjoy the moment and thrill of Christmas. I hope you have that thrill this Christmas as well. Enjoy time with your family, and remember the real joy that comes from knowing the meaning of the season…a Savior is Born…Wow!

Speaking of family, allow me a quick update. Andrew is now fully funded and is working full time with Campus Crusade for Christ on the UNC campus in Chapel Hill. Thank all of you who are supporting him. Steven has just one more semester at UT and will graduate in May with a degree in International Business and Marketing. John Thomas will graduate high school in June and has already been accepted at one university and waits on word from another. Lainey’s dad, John Shell, who ran Hemlock Inn from 1969-89, will be 80 on December 17. A big family celebration is scheduled later. Lainey and I count our blessings.

We all hope your Christmas is especially merry. If you need a little help to get into the spirit, watch the children.

— Mort