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Festival lights up Denton for the holidays

Festival lights up Denton for the holidays

Denton Community Band conductor Carol Lynn Mizell speaks to the crowd during the Holiday Lighting Festival on Friday, December 4, 2015. Photo by Kristen Watson/DRC

Festival lights up Denton for the holidays
December 06
09:42 2015

Kayleigh Bywater | Senior Staff Writer

@kayleighnic0le

This Friday night at the Denton Square was more packed than usual. Children in elf hats and Christmas sweaters waited anxiously with letters in hand to talk to Santa, people sipped on wassail drink samples as they listened to holiday music—and in the middle of it all a Christmas tree shimmered with an array of lights in the chilly night.

While local bands played holiday classics and high school drill teams high kicked their way down the streets, event-goers were all there for the same reason: to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season.

For 27 years, the Denton Holiday Lighting Festival has kicked off the holiday season in North Texas, bringing thousands of locals and visitors to make memories and celebrate the busy time of year.

“I love Denton, and I just wanted to do more for the community,” vice chair of the Denton Holiday Festival Association Kate Lynass said. “I work for the county judge, and about five years ago I went to go let the board know about a few issues since the event is on county property, and they just asked if I wanted to join the board. So I decided to jump in, just like that.”

Hundreds of people fill the Denton square for the Holiday Lighting Festival on Friday, December 4, 2015. Photo by Kristen Watson/DRC

Thousands of people fill the Denton square for the Holiday Lighting Festival on Friday. Kristen Watson | DRC

The DHFA, a non-profit organization, is able to host the event each year due solely to sponsorships and donations from community members.

Lynass said they have to raise all the money for the festival on their own because the festivities are not put on by the city of Denton. Although the city helps with certain aspects, the DHFA is in charge of each piece of the festival.

“From start to finish, this is a volunteer event,” Lynass said. “We have to raise all the money, organize all the vendors and performers, purchase and rent each stage, get the lights and make sure everything runs smoothly. We do ask for sponsorships and donations in order to help with cost, and it can be stressful. But the great thing is we make enough money every year to do it again and again.”

Over 15,000 people attended the Festival this year, Lynass said. Last year only about 10,000 people braved the cold to celebrate the holidays.

Denton resident Kevia Rawlinson came to the Lighting Festival with her husband Ryan and baby girl Ella. This was the family’s first year to venture out to the festival, but she said she could not wait to come back in coming years.

“Don’t get me wrong—it’s extremely cold. But we’re having a blast,” Rawlinson said. “I just think it’s awesome because there’s so much diversity with the colleges and all the different families in the area. It’s nice to have the community involvement and everyone celebrating the start of the holiday season together.”

From left to right: Kelsey Littlefield, Shelby Flores and Sophie Hoenig pose for a photo with the newly lit tree during the Holiday Lighting Festival on Friday, December 4, 2015. Photo by Kristen Watson/DRC

From left to right: Kelsey Littlefield, Shelby Flores and Sophie Hoenig pose for a photo with the newly lit tree during the Holiday Lighting Festival on Friday. Kristen Watson | DRC

Whether people gazed at the tree from the top of LSA or posed for pictures in front of the thousands of lights illuminating the tree on the Courthouse lawn, Lynass said she was happy with how far the event has come.

“When the Festival began 27 years ago, the volunteers thought it would be festive to put lights on the pecan trees,” Lynass said. “They had enough money to put lights on just one tree. Now, we have lights on each tree all year long and this huge tree in the middle of the Square. It is kind of mind-boggling.”

Early education sophomore Elizabeth Johnson said she has been to the festival both years she has attended UNT and thinks the event is a great way to break away from the stresses of everyday life and celebrate the start of the holidays.

“It just feels more welcoming,” Johnson said. “I love that the stores are open later, they’re giving out free cider and just that Denton is coming together to kick off this amazing time of the year. It’s like one big citywide party.”

As for the future, Lynass is not so sure what to expect. She will be the board chair next year for DHFA and is expecting a lot of work in her future but is excited to see what the festival will bring to the community next year after its huge success this year.

“We take a little break in January but start right back up on planning the Festival in February, so it’s a lot of work and time,” Lynass said. “But above all, this is just so rewarding. Look around—everyone is having a good time. It’s an amazing feeling that something that we are so passionate about has come to this. […] This is Denton’s festival.”

Featured Image: Denton Community Band conductor Carol Lynn Mizell speaks to the crowd during the Holiday Lighting Festival on Friday. Kristen Watson | DRC

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