Parade, Festival usher in Christmas holiday season

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2016-12-11-5k-jingle-bell-run-and-parade-01347-56-web

Santa Claus greets a young parade watcher during the annual Liberty Hill Christmas Parade Sunday. Christmas Festival organizers say there were more than 50 entries in the parade that made its way from Liberty Hill Elementary School to the Intermediate School. (Alex Rubio Photo)

By SARAH SILBERSTEIN

Strong gusts of wind, overcast skies and standing puddles of water did not keep the Liberty Hill community from coming out and attending the Christmas Parade and Festival on Sunday.
Vehicles and folding chairs lined the sides of the parade route on Loop 332 and excited children danced around waiting for the parade to begin.

The Jingle Bell 5k Run/Walk, sponsored by Cross Tracks Church, started before the parade with more than 30 runners participating in the race.

After finishing her first 5k, Judy Jones, who placed 3rd in the female 60+ age group, said the race was “tiring, but okay.”

Jacob Russell was the overall male finisher completing the race in 21:10 and Hannah Johnson was the overall female finisher completing the race in 22:54.

The parade began at 2:10 p.m. and featured 50 floats that included classic cars, the Liberty Hill High School marching band, Operation Liberty Hill, Capital City Highlanders, Liberty Hill Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Cub Scouts, Winkley’s, Jim’s Pest Control, Liberty Hill Police Department, Williamson County Democrats, Liberty Hill FFA, Trusted Guard Martial Arts, Williamson County Emergency Services District #4, Courage Cheer & Dance United, Liberty Hill Masonic Lodge, Liberty Hill Orthodontics, and more.

On the sidelines, Bill Gorham set up his video camera in the bed of his truck to capture his 13-year-old granddaughter on the 4-H float.

Ginger Hernandez attended the parade with her grandchildren, Aiden (5) and Olivia (2), who wanted to ask Santa for a Barbie Dreamhouse if they could muster enough courage to talk to the jolly bearded stranger.

Brothers Treyjan (5) and Hadrian (3) Vaughn admired the big army trucks as they rolled passed and waited patiently for a clearing so they could dart into the street to pick up candy tossed from the floats.

Cheryl Brants cheered on the runners and took pictures of the passing floats while waiting to see her husband playing the drums on the Fellowship Church float.

“I think this is the biggest parade to date,” said LHPD Lt. Jeff Ringstaff.

Fellowship Church Pastor Michael Wright, who served on the Christmas Festival committee and has participated in the Liberty Hill Christmas Parade for eight or nine years, said this year’s parade had “absolutely more people than we’ve ever seen before.”

Once the parade finished with white-gloved waves from Father Christmas himself, festival attendees journeyed into the Lions Foundation Park where they were greeted with steaming cups of hot chocolate provided by the Salvation Army.

Jolly old St. Nick gleefully posed for pictures by a classic red convertible and listened to gift requests.

“I had one child ask for a full-size Jeep and another ask for a real shotgun,” Santa said with a chuckle.

The festival featured live music and 41 vendors selling a wide array of goods including homemade fudge, knitted hats, jewelry, soaps, clothing and home decor.

“The community spirit was amazing [and the festival was] a raging success all the way around,” Pastor Wright said. “We’ve had better feedback this year than we’ve had since we’ve started doing this.”

On Saturday night, the Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce and the City of Liberty Hill served complimentary hot chocolate and hot apple cider as the handbell choir of Cross Tracks Church performed. The performance was followed by a community worship service.

In its third year, Light the Night celebrates the lighting of the City’s official Christmas Tree at Lions Foundation Park and marks the opening of the Trail of Lights around the park. Lighted holiday displays around the park will remain open to the public through New Year’s Day.

Pastor Wright said the festival, which cost close to $20,000 to put on, is a “great example of the spirit of Liberty Hill.”

The largest contributor to the festival was the City of Liberty Hill’s Economic Development Corp. Local businesses and churches provided additional financial support, items or services. Festival volunteers spent hours of their time to ensure the festival was a success.

Financially, Pastor Wright said, this year’s festival was able to do more with less money because of the community-wide support.

The volunteers knew that “nobody would know who [they] were, all they wanted was to put on a really amazing festival for the community of Liberty Hill,” Pastor Wright said.

Festival organizers will meet Thursday to discuss insights gained from this year’s festival and to begin work on next year’s event.

The meeting is “not to congratulate ourselves for a job well done,” Pastor Wright said. The purpose of the meeting is to identify “where we can improve because, no matter how good of a job we did, we can always do better.”

The festival and weekend activities were originally scheduled for the first weekend in December, but events were postponed one week due to inclement weather.

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