It doesn't feel like the holidays in Denton until the first Friday of December.
That's the evening when the city flips on the lights on the Christmas tree — the evergreen that stands at the corner of Locust and Oak Streets on the Square — and starts the official celebration of the season.
The Denton Holiday Lighting Festival leans on what Denton does best: music. The event follows its tried-and-true formula: a sing-along with the Denton Community Band (count on "Up on the Housetop," "Silver Bells" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"), then a smorgasbord of performances. There will be music on the Festival Stage, in the Courthouse on the Square, at the Denton County Historical Park, and finally on the performance stage at Elm and Oak Streets.
Most years, you can get by with a hoodie for the Holiday Lighting Festival. Last year the event got rained out, but usually, the weather is mild (even a little on the balmy side) and you can tour the vendor booths on the Square and sample the goods from businesses and groups participating in Wassail Weekend. Downtown businesses will be open, making the festival a party and holiday shopping combination.
Families can get photos of their little ones with Santa for $7 apiece. The line can get long, and organizers recommend getting in line early.
Horse-drawn carriage rides will be available for $5 per person; children under 2 years of age ride for free.
The evening ends with "A Very Merry Denton" holiday spectacular, a swinging evening of holiday music by local composer and musician David J. Pierce and the Denton Holiday Lighting Orchestra. Pierce stacks his concert with local talent, performing holiday standards, pop tunes inspired by the season and, sometimes, an original number by a local artist.
The festival is free.
Denton Holiday Lighting Festival schedule
The following is an updated schedule.
5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1
Downtown Denton Square, 110 W. Hickory St.
Located at Hickory and Locust streets
5:30 p.m. — Holiday sing-along with Denton Community Band (songbooks are available onsite)
5:45 p.m. — Greetings from dignitaries
6 p.m. — Tree lighting
6 to 6:20 p.m. — Denton Community Band
6:30 to 6:50 p.m. — Denton High School Lab Band 1
7 to 7:20 p.m. — Ballet Folklorico de Woodrow Wilson
7:30 to 7:50 p.m. — Festival Ballet of North Central Texas presenting excerpts from The Nutcracker
Dancing in the Streets Performance Area
At the corner of Locust and Oak Streets
6 to 6:20 p.m. — Ryan High School Strutters
6:30 to 6:50 p.m. — NT Dancers & TWU Pioneer Pride
7 to 7:20 p.m. — Cross Oaks Spirit Squad
7:30 to 7:50 p.m. — Desert Diamonds
UNT on the Square
109 N. Elm St.
6 to 8 p.m. — UNT Tuba Euphonium Ensemble
Chestnut Tree Tea Room
107 W. Hickory St
6 to 6:20 p.m. - Gigi Miller
6:30 to 6:50 p.m. - Robbie Johnson
7 to 7:20 p.m. - Kenzie Eaglin
7:30 to 7:50 p.m. - Pink Couch Studios
On the second floor of the Courthouse on the Square, 110 W. Hickory St.
6 to 6:20 p.m. — Order of the Ocarina
6:30 to 6:50 p.m. — Trinity Wennerstrom
7 to 7:50 p.m. —Kelsey Lewis
Denton County Historical Park
317 W. Mulberry
6 to 6:20 p.m. - Cross Oaks Choir
6:30 to 6:50 p.m. - Evers Park Elementary Choir
7 to 7:20 p.m. - Swan Hawk Choir
7:30 to 7:50 p.m. - Blanton Squire Choir
St. Andrew Presbyterian Church Stage
300 W. Oak St. (Sanctuary will be open for prayer during these times as well)
5:30 to 5:55 p.m. — St. Andrew Children present the Living Nativity
6 to 6:25 p.m. — St. Andrew Youth Caroling
6:30 to 7p.m. — St. Andrew Adult Chancel Choir
East Courthouse Lawn
all evening - Glory of Zion Living Nativity
Cross Timbers Church
312 W. McKinney St
6 to 6:20 p.m. - Denton Community Chorus
6:30 to 6:50 p.m. - The Loverlies
7 to 7:20 p.m. - Calvary United Pentecostal Church of Denton
7:30 to 7:50 p.m. - Brett Cox
Agua Dulce Mexican Kitchen
115 S. Elm St.
5:30 to 5:55 p.m. - St. Andrew Children -- Living Nativity
6 to 7:20 p.m. - Layne Elizabeth
7:30 to 7:50 p.m. - Stephanie Untch
Corner of Oak and Elm Streets
8 to 9:30 p.m. — “A Very Merry Denton” Holiday Spectacular: featuring David J. Pierce and the Denton Holiday Lighting Orchestra, with special guests A Taste of Herb, Little Jack Melody, Eric Pulido of Midlake & BNQT, Jeffrey Barnes, Bubba Turner, Boxcar Bandits, UNT Brazillian Percussion Ensemble, John Murphy, the UNT Jazz Singers, Bonnie & Nick Norris and Bubba Hernandez.