Denton County is rich in holiday traditions, but for many, the season doesn’t officially begin until the Denton Holiday Lighting Festival is held on the downtown Square.
This year’s festival — set from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday — will be the 25th annual, and while the event has certainly grown through the years, it hasn’t lost its hometown feel. It still delights visitors of all ages with plenty of old-fashioned fun, said Janie McLeod, community events coordinator for the city of Denton.
“This event has so many positive impacts on the community — it is a fun, family-friendly event with a variety of great entertainment, is good for the downtown businesses and brings everyone together regardless of ages,” she said.
McLeod said she was involved with the festival when it first began while she was working with the Convention and Visitors Bureau. The festival is a tradition that she now shares with her grandchildren.
And she has plenty of company. The festival draws a large crowd of onlookers from a wide area, and for many families, it’s a multi-generational event. There’s nothing quite like seeing the glow of festive holiday lights reflected in the eyes of a child — unless it’s sharing all the seasonal delights with a parent or grandparent.
The lighting festival will begin with a sing-along and the lighting of the community Christmas tree at 5:30 p.m., organizers said. Music, arts and crafts, food and a visit from Santa will continue the festive fun.
Denton Main Street created Wassail Fest to complement the Holiday Lighting Festival, and it will run from 5:30 to 8 p.m., with merchants on the Square offering their own special recipes of hot cider. The event is free, and the public will be able to vote for the best wassail recipe.
Ballots for taste testing will be available at various locations, including the Denton Citizen’s Police Academy booth on the Hickory Street and Elm Street side of the courthouse lawn, at tables located on the four outside corners of the Square and at the Campus Theatre. Ballots should be turned in by 8 p.m. at the ballot collection box located in front of the Campus Theatre to be eligible for door prizes from participating merchants.
Micah Pazoureck, a co-chairwoman of the Denton Holiday Festival Association, said the festival began in 1988 with just a few hundred people in attendance, and the festival now draws an estimated 13,000 to 15,000 people. One of the things she said many festival-goers still don’t realize is that the Denton Holiday Festival Association is a nonprofit organization governed by a volunteer board of directors.
“We run solely off donations and sponsorships to put this festival on,” Pazoureck said. “Donations are always appreciated to keep it going. … This really is an event put on for the community by the community.”
Organizers encourage anyone attending the event to bring a new, unwrapped toy as part of a holiday toy drive to give children in Denton County a Christmas they otherwise might not have.
“Just look for the large Peterbilt truck with the huge flags designating our toy drop-off area near Wells Fargo and Abbey Inn,” Pazoureck said.
The Denton Holiday Lighting Festival is the perfect way to get the holiday season rolling. From the Denton Community Band sing-along to the lighting of the Christmas tree with Santa, this crowd-pleasing event truly offers something for everyone.
For more information about what’s in store, visit http://dentonholidaylighting.com. You can also find out more details inside today’s annual Christmas in Denton County section, where you’ll also find out more information about other holiday events.
We’ll see you Friday on the Square, and if you know someone who may be having a little trouble getting into the holiday spirit, bring them along — it’s tough to utter “bah, humbug,” when you’re tapping your toe to holiday tunes played by some of Denton’s favorite musicians or sipping tasty hot cider.