By Jon Schroeder
Killeen Daily Herald
LAMPASAS – When Santa arrived Friday night at the Lampasas Carol of Lights, he brought one early Christmas present that wouldn't fit under a tree – he brought the city some community.
The Carol of Lights, which ran from 6 to 9 p.m., centered at the Lampasas courthouse. It featured plays, dancing, live music and food. But what most sticks out to residents isn't any of those things. It's the warmth and friendship which they say define the city and which the Carol of Lights brings out.
Eve Sanchez, who has run Eve's German Cuisine just across the parking lot from the courthouse for the past 13 years, said the Carol of Lights kicks off the Christmas season for her.
"It's just peaceful," she said. "Everybody seems to be in good spirits. Nobody's rushing."
She said the scene is a good time for residents to relax and soak in the Christmas cheer.
"To me, being from Germany – we have that in the towns – it's a one-night stop of all the hassle that goes along with the season," she said.
And as the Lampasas High School jazz ensemble started off the night with music, with conductor Glen Grant wearing a red- and green-striped elf hat, Sanchez said the holiday season had arrived in Lampasas.
This year saw some changes from the past few years. In 2006, city officials started allowing nonprofit organizations to sell food to raise money, and only Gary Norton of Boy Scout Troop 200 took them up on the offer. But this year, about 10 vendors showed up, each raising money for a dearly held cause.
Several of the vendors said the event has grown from when they were youngsters growing up in Lampasas. But some things remain the same – as the night's emcee, Janie Potts said, "What would Christmas be without the courthouse lights?"
The lights and the county's star, set high atop the courthouse, lit up town square when Mayor Judith Hetherly flipped the switch at about 6:30 p.m.
But for some, the most important part of the ceremonies hails from the North Pole. More than one version of Santa Claus was at the event. The first to show up was Savannah Bates, 12, who performed "A Penguin Christmas" with a group from Hannah Springs Elementary School as part of the night's festivities. She said for her part, she hopes a Nintendo Wii shows up under her tree.
The official Santa, who arrived on a fire truck at about 7 p.m., took Christmas present requests from children in the courthouse for the next two hours. But for most residents, Santa wasn't the most important part:
"It's friendship. Community," said Andy Garcia, a resident of 34 years selling baked goods to refurbish a park in the Sue Anne division near his home in Lampasas. "I think that's what makes Lampasas, Lampasas."
Contact Jon Schroeder at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 547-0428