Dr. Patti Mullins and Buddy Rutledge will serve as grand marshals of this year’s Newport Christmas parade on Thursday, Dec. 8. The two are being recognized for spearheading the annual Christmas decorating efforts in Newport.
It is no secret that Dr. Mullins is a fan of the holidays. She has been growing her own personal collection of Christmas displays at her home and dental office for quite some time. She began her efforts to decorate the town approximately 12 years ago with exterior Christmas lights on the Iron Mountain Depot. As Mayor David Stewart put it, “She’s been at it ever since!”
Dr. Mullins created the Newport Christmas Decorating Fund, then in 2012 partnered with friend Buddy Rutledge and others to raise money for their next project – the Jackson County Courthouse. Rutledge not only had a similar passion for the holidays as Mullins, but he is also a professional electrician whose skills have been essential for developing plans to power each new display, such as the one at the courthouse, which includes a giant snowman, 15-foot Santa and thousands of lights.
Partnerships and support have grown since the initial investment of lighting the Depot. The Jackson County Council on Tourism, Jacksonport State Park, City of Newport Parks & Recreation Department, ASU-Newport, Newport Area Chamber of Commerce and many others are pooling resources and volunteers to add to the lighting efforts annually. In addition, Mullins and Rutledge handle all fundraising efforts for the purchase of each new component, which to date features over 125 pre-lit Christmas trees throughout the city and at Newport Lake, the Nutcracker exhibit at the farmers market pavilion, and new displays this year in downtown Newport. Seven giant Nutcracker soldiers lining Front Street near the Iron Mountain Depot, a 21-foot red, white and blue Christmas tree in the Veterans Park, and a seven-piece soldier band will be a wonderful addition to the decorating efforts.
Mullins stated that the pair “would like to thank the community for donating funds that allow us to make the Christmas decorations possible.”
Because of Mullins and Rutledge’s leadership and passion, citizens and business owners have been inspired to purchase and display their own outdoor decorations to add to the overall spirit of the season, and plans have already begun for new exhibits in 2017.
Mullins and Rutledge were selected as grand marshals at the annual Newport Area Chamber of Commerce banquet during its fundraising auction. They were awarded the honor by friends Rhett and Jan Maris, Joey and Dee Dee Dupree, and Ike Wheeler.