City holds tree lighting, Christmas Extravaganza at City Park
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The city’s Parks and Recreation Department and Office of Tourism and Events hosted the annual Christmas Extravaganza at the City Park Friday evening to kick off the holiday season.
The event, which ran from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., featured the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony and a visit from Santa Claus. This year marked the fourth year that the event was held at City Park. The annual tree lighting ceremony was typically held at the Copperas Cove Public Library but was moved to the park in 2015 due to construction of the Technology Center.
Brianna McGuine, Tourism and Information coordinator, explained that the event has been able to grow each year since it was moved to the park and added that she was excited by the turnout.
“I think it’s just a great community event,” McGuine said. “It’s always nice to get the community together especially during the holidays, it gives them a chance to take a step back and relax and kind of unwind before the crazy holiday season.”
The week before the Extravaganza, Christmas lights were wrapped around trees throughout the park and around the duck pond, and other Christmas light displays were set up. McGuine said that residents shared on Facebook how much they enjoyed the look of the lights in the days leading up to the extravaganza.
A hay maze took over one of the park’s baseball fields and a tractor pulling a trailer full of people sitting on hay made its way around the park. Behind the Christmas tree, Fannie’s Farm Friends offered a petting zoo and pony rides for the children at a cost of $3 per ride or entry or a package deal for $5. The petting zoo included rabbits, ducks, chickens and goats.
This year saw the addition of an Ugly Christmas Sweater contest, with three age groups- 0-8 years, 9-17 years and 18 years and older. The prize categories included Most Original, Most Creative and Most Hilarious, with prizes donated by Raising Cane’s and Advance America.
The pop-up Farmer’s Market, which offered a chance to grab some Christmas gifts, was located on Field 1 and included vendors such as Tops Woodwork and Laser Engraving, Ware Farm Honey, Holman’s Organic Veggies, Things & Such, Bakes and Cakes by Rosie, Myrtle Bird Bakery and independent consultants from Scentsy, Lularoe, Color Street and Perfectly Posh.
Food vendors included C&H Hawaiian Grill, Ray Ray’s Kitchen and Pop! Cornutopia. Girl Scout Troop 6226 was also passing out hot cocoa.
GymKix’s High Velocity Dancy Company, Diva Dogs and Just Perform dance groups performed after 5 p.m. Other entertainment included live music by Austin-based artist Denny Herrin. First Baptist Church also portrayed a live nativity.
Santa arrived on a Copperas Cove Fire Department fire truck and lit the 20-foot tree with help from Aubrey Schneider, who won the opportunity to flip the switch in a raffle.
Kiddos had the opportunity to craft their letter to Santa at the event and then place it in a mailbox located near the tree.
Santa sat in his chair and welcomed hugs from kids as he asked them questions about how good or bad they’ve been this year and what they wanted for Christmas. Pictures with personal cameras or phones were available at no cost.
Stephen Sullivan, 7, attended the event with his mom, Patty Sullivan and shared that he asked Santa for a Nintendo Switch.
They waited in line for Santa first before going to see everything else offered. Patty said that they come every year and that she likes that games and activities are free.
“It’s really good because it brings the city together, especially being a small city, it’s really good that they’re able to do it in a safe area,” Sullivan said.
Jessica Gower brought her two sons Jaylon McCoun, 4, Prestin Gower, 3 months, to the event and said she appreciated that the pictures with Santa didn’t cost anything.
“Santa pictures are expensive,” Gower said. “This is pretty much our only Santa pictures except for maybe [at] Belton Lake.”