Annual Christmas Festival promises to be ‘snow’ much fun

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By Rachel Madison

Organizers say the annual Liberty Hill Christmas Festival on Saturday will be the best yet, featuring real snow right in the heart of town.

Fellowship Church Pastor Michael Wright, chair of the festival’s board of directors and spokesperson for the event, said this year’s festival will feature a snow playground with 44,000 pounds of real snow, as well as favorites from the past like Santa’s Village and the lighted night parade.

Last year, the committee opted to move the event to a one-day Saturday festival, which ended up being a big success.

“We hit the sweet spot because we had a great turnout,” Wright said. “We expect, weather permitting, to do the same thing this year and we hope even more people come. We don’t want more people just to have more people. We want more people because that’s the heart of community. The festival is a place for neighbors to gather and catch up with each other.”

Wright said it’s estimated that around 3,000 people attended last year’s festival, and because of a date change this year, he expects that number to climb.

“We moved the date this year to a week later to try to capture more people,” he said. “With the run the [Liberty Hill High School] Panthers [football team is] making that’s obviously a very good idea.”

The festival, which will be held Saturday at Lions Foundation Park at 355 Loop 332, will begin at 12 Noon and run until 8 p.m. Food trucks featuring everything from funnel cakes to barbecue will be on site, as well as more than 75 vendors.

“We have a lot more vendor booths than there were last year,” Wright said. “There will be everything from crafts and food to everything in between. Some are just informational vendors, but there will be something for everybody out there.”

Throughout the afternoon, there will be live entertainment and visits from “Bucky” the puppet, who will be telling the Christmas story.

“One of our big attractions for kids is Bucky,” Wright said. “He is a rock star with kids. He’ll be reminding us what we’re celebrating to begin with.”

Santa’s Village will feature a variety of activities for kids, including cookie decorating, ornament making and face painting. Santa and Mrs. Claus will also be in the village taking pictures and sharing stories. Reindeer games at the festival will include bounce houses, a barrel train and a Clydesdale-pulled carriage ride. All the activities at the festival are free.

“We just keep improving every year,” Wright said. “These activities will be bigger and better. We’ve really tried to create that environment where kids are going to be thrilled.”

The annual Jingle Bell 5K and fun run will begin at 4:30 p.m. Online registration is closed, but walk-up registration for the race will be open until 3:45 p.m. the day of the race. The entry fee is $15 for adults, $10 for children or $50 for a family of four. The starting and finish lines for both the 5K and the fun run are at Lions Foundation Park. Costumed entries are encouraged, and leashed pets, children in strollers and walkers are welcome to participate. The event is not timed, but awards and refreshments will be served at the finish line.

At 6 p.m., the lighted night parade will begin. The parade route begins at Liberty Hill Elementary School and ends at Liberty Hill Junior High School. The spectator viewing area will be between the elementary school and Liberty Hill Intermediate School only.

“The parade route is the same as it’s been in the past,” Wright said. “I would encourage people strongly to find their spot on the parade route early because it gets dark fast.”

Last year was the first time the festival featured a night parade, and Wright said the feedback from the community was “outstanding,” which is why it’s being done again this year.

“The pinnacle of the festival is the parade,” he said. “Last year was awesome. This year it’ll be even better. Since we moved the festival by a week, our marching bands can participate in the parade. Rumor has it both the high school and the junior high bands will be in the parade. I’m excited to see what they do.”

Wright added that because the parade will be taking place in the dark, the committee is not allowing anyone to throw candy from floats.

“Safety is the number one thing for us, and we just don’t want anyone to get hurt,” he said. “People who are walking can hand candy out, but we’re not allowing anyone to throw candy.”

The Circle G Events Clydesdale and light covered wagon will wrap up the parade by stopping along the parade route to collect unwrapped toys for the Liberty Hill Angel Tree and canned goods for Operation Liberty Hill. Children are allowed to run into the street to deliver their toys to Santa and his elves on the float.

Immediately following the parade, the annual Light the Night event will take place at Foundation Park. This year’s Trail of Lights, which covers the .8-mile-long walking trail at Lions Foundation Park, is going to be bigger than ever this year, Wright said.

“One of the big-ticket items is the light decorations in the park this year,” he said. “That will produce a lot of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs.’ We’re going to have light displays that will just blow people away. Some of them are 30 feet across.”

Fifteen never-before-seen light displays will be in the park in addition to the light poles, which are adopted and decorated by businesses, families and organizations each year. During the lighting ceremony, the Liberty Hill High School band will play Christmas songs, Mayor Rick Hall will speak, and a local pastor will wrap up the evening with a prayer. The Trail of Lights will be open from dusk until dawn through Jan. 5, 2019.

Parking for the event is free and will be available at Fellowship Church, the VFW, Liberty Hill Elementary, Liberty Hill Junior High and Liberty Hill Intermediate. Fellowship Church’s shuttle buses will be running back and forth between the parking lots and the festival throughout the day.

The festival’s board of directors, which includes community leaders from churches, schools, city government and businesses, begins planning for the next year’s festival before the current year’s festival has even happened, Wright said.

“We do that based on wanting to create an environment where people leave the festival grounds marking their calendars for next year,” he said. “By the time we’re finished there’s well over 100 people who have actively participated in planning the festival. This is a community effort.”

Wright said ultimately, the festival is a way for people in and around Liberty Hill to experience the meaning of community.

“I truly believe Liberty Hill is the kind of community we all want it to be and that’s because we have a great community spirit we’re all united around,” he said. “On the festival committee we have to remind ourselves why we’re doing this. It’s not to have a great festival—it’s to have a great community. We also want to highlight what it is we’re celebrating, which is the gift God gave us in His son. That’s a significant part of what we do. This is a great community that really surrounds that.”

For more information on the Liberty Hill Christmas Festival, visit www.libertyhillchristmas.com or search for the event on Facebook or Instagram.

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