By WAYLON CUNNINGHAM
Janet Widmer was half-worried her parade float was getting too gaudy. Between the 1,000-plus jingle bells, the enormous gift box spilling out ornaments, the elves throwing out candy and business cards, and the silent generator powering the rolls of Christmas lights hung “everywhere you can possibly think of,” it was a spectacle two months in the making for a 30-minute show.
So, she recalls, laughing, she asked the Chamber of Commerce what they thought. They told her to keep going.
“Unwrap the Supreme Difference,” designed and built by Widmer’s business, Supreme Lending, is one of 52 floats that will appear Saturday at this year’s Christmas Festival.
The parade kicks off at 6 p.m. and follows a “Glow in the Dark” theme this year, marking the first nighttime parade in the festival’s history.
The mile-long parade route begins at Liberty Hill Elementary School and follows Loop 332 through downtown to Lions Foundation Park. The last float — Williamson County Cowboy Church — will pass out battery-powered candles, and parade spectators will be invited to follow the procession to the park, where a Christmas Carol Service will be held followed by the lighting of the spectacular Trail of Lights.
A free shuttle will be available at the Fellowship Church Annex (previously the VFW building) to take parade watchers to the park and back to designated parking areas.
“It’s always been a little hometown parade, but I expect to be really wowed this year,” said Catherine Roberts, a co-leader for Girl Scout Troop 204.
This week, the Girl Scouts decorated two hay bale trailers with Christmas lights, garland, tinsel, and “as much red and green as you can imagine,” Roberts says. Almost all of the material was donated.
“What money we did put into it was to buy as many things that light up,” she said.
Troop 204 is among the 12 troops in the Liberty Hill Girl Scouts of Central Texas Ladybug Service Unit participating in the parade. Most of the nearly 100 scouts will ride in the trailers and sing Christmas Carols.
In years past they have needed only one trailer, but owing to the “growing and growing” number of Girl Scouts, Roberts says they will be using two for the first time. And still, the older scouts will have to walk.
Though they will not be throwing out candy as they typically have — “there were some hesitation because it’s at night,” Roberts said — the Girl Scouts will have a booth at the park where they give out ornaments they have hand-made. A donation amount will be suggested for each ornament.
The nighttime setting has prompted other long-standing parade participants to change their approach.
Liberty Hill Masonic Lodge #432, whose float won first place last year, had originally registered to bring clown cars, but later scrapped the plan because the cars have no lights. Now, they are running two 16-foot trailers decked top to bottom in lights.
The first, which members of the Masonic lodge will stand on, is decorated in the spirit of the popular animated Disney movie “Frozen”. Main characters from the movie will walk behind the trailer and wave to children in the crowd.
The second trailer is being created by the Ben Hur Shriners, an Austin-based fundraising group for the Masonic-run Shriners Hospital for children.
“We want to let people know we’re here and we want to support the community,” said lodge member Don Walker. He said that despite the lodge’s presence in town since the 19th Century, many seem unaware of it.
Also in the spirit of community, a horse-drawn carriage escorting Santa and Mrs. Claus will collect unwrapped gifts from parade spectators, which will go toward Liberty Hill’s Angel Tree program. The program provides toys and gifts for local children in need.
At press time this week, more than 40 businesses and organizations have registered to have a presence in the parade. They include: Ben Hur Shriners; Bill Burden and Rancho Sienna elementary schools; Care First Walk-In Clinic; Circle G Events; Clawson Disposal; Courage Cheer; Crossfit; Fellowship Academy; Flock Fitness; Hilltop Children’s Center; Hope House of Austin; Hughes & Co. Real Estate; Indian Mound Ranch Market; Liberty Hill Fire Honor Guard; Liberty Hill Elementary PTO; Liberty Hill Masonic Lodge; Liberty Hill Orthodontics; Liberty Hill Pediatrics; Liberty Hill Public Library; LHHS Softball Team; Liberty Hill Towing; Liberty Hill High School and Junior High School chapters of the National Honor Society; Operation Liberty Hill; RDH Longhorns; Salvation Army; Supreme Lending; LaWann Tull Fine Art.
Prizes will be awarded to entries that win 1st, 2nd or 3rd place. An honorable mention will also be declared.