Moving experience draws crowd and priceless moments at Biltmore tree raising

Biltmore tree-raising ceremony on Nov. 1, 2018. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

At Biltmore Estate on Thursday morning, it was almost like 1895 all over again, only with a lot more people.

Teagan Driscoll was one of the young faces in the crowd for the annual tree raising.

"It's the start of the Christmas season," she pointed out.

Christmas at the Biltmore begins Saturday, Nov. 3. The tree and estate are all decked out for visitors from all over the country.

John Whitmire arrived at the festivities with daughters Cassie and Alexandra, anxiously waiting for something big to happen.

"Are we going to see Santa? Is Santa going to bring a tree as big as our house?" John asked Alexandra.

"Taller than the castle!" she replied.

The highly anticipated 35-foot Fraser fir would be there soon, but the tree-raising includes much more than just a tree.

A marching band played before the main attractions arrived and John could hardly contain himself.

"I see Santa on the sleigh with the tree!" he told his girls.

"Wow!" Keagan said as the horse-drawn carriage arrived with Santa Claus and that behemoth tree.

"Can you believe this?" John said, even more excited than his kids. "Look at the size of that tree!"

"Look at that!" Keagan echoed, as dozens of employees stepped in to carry on the tradition.

"It's going to take all of these people to lift that tree?" John said, as the Whitmire's relished every move.

The moving project began at the Biltmore's front door.

"Nice work," Rick Conard said to the employees. He's the VP of Attraction Operations.

"Go forward, take your time," he said, coaching them through the process.

Makes you wonder how the crew prepares for the spectacle.

"Probably weightlfifting and stuff like that?" Teagan speculated.

Lee Peter of Weaverville says he's become a regular at the tree-raising.

"It's like everyone is friends, it's just great to have a time of happiness, joy, peace, and friendship. And a great way to start the holiday season," Peter said. "It's just great to have a time of happiness and joy."

The final stop for the tree is the Banquet Hall.

"One... two... three..." we heard Conard countdown to the men more than a few times, followed by a lot of heavy lifting.

Then the final stretch in the Banquet Hall, which is 72 feet high. The challenge was raising the tree without raising the roof.

It took less than a minute of hoisting before Christmas cheers erupted.

So, that's how the Biltmore holiday magic happens, providing a nice little family memory that goes a long way.

"I hope they remember just being together and enjoying the spirit of the season," John Whitmire said with his arms around his children.

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