CONNIE SWINNEY • PICAYUNE STAFF
JOHNSON CITY — A weekend celebration that launches the region’s lighting trail will feature more than 1 million Christmas lights, fireworks, a lighted parade, courthouse and park tours as well as a handmade ornaments store, hayrides, a 5K run and live performances.
The 24th annual Lights Spectacular, Hill Country Style is Nov. 29-30 and Dec. 1 and features a fireworks show and lighting of the Blanco County Courthouse, located on East Pecan Avenue, on the first night.
“Visitors are just in awe because it’s so bright,” event chairwoman Rhonda Stell said. “You can see the glow three miles from town.”
The courthouse lighting follows the fireworks show at 6:30 with appearances by Santa and Mrs. Claus. The event also features carriage rides and hayrides, and the Chuckwagon Food Court with 19 nonprofit vendors will keep visitors well fed and on the lighting-tour path for all three nights.
“You can get out and buy ornaments at the courthouse on Friday and Saturday night. You can get out and go to the food court,” Stell said. “You can stroll the park, take pictures.”
As many as 50,000 to 60,000 visitors are expected in December with tours continuing every weekend through Jan. 1.
“All the businesses benefit because of all the tourists,” Stell said. “The restaurants have to hire extra help because of all the people who come to town.”
Lights Spectacular is considered the launch pad for the broader Hill Country Lighting Trail, which features displays and Christmas activities from neighboring towns, including Fredericksburg, Llano, Marble Falls and Wimberley.
“At first, it focused on the courthouse, and then, we got all these other towns involved that are part of the lighting trail,” said Stell, referring to the popularity of the comprehensive lighting display efforts. “Then, everybody got on the bandwagon. PEC started decorating the trees and headquarters.”
To compliment the lighting of the courthouse, Pedernales Electric Cooperative covers numerous trees with blue and white Christmas Lights at the PEC headquarters on Avenue F on the south side of Memorial Park, adjacent to the courthouse square.
Memorial Park also features a walking trail, lighted sculptures and activities.
On Nov. 30, a 5K run will include awards and a prize-giveaway. Two back-to-back parades are scheduled for 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Live Christmas music and street performances will highlight the evening as well.
The courthouse ornaments sale (each weekend through Jan. 1) features handmade ornaments, arts and crafts, cookbooks and other holiday gifts. Proceeds benefit local nonprofit organizations.
“It is the biggest event of our town. It’s all volunteer help,” Stell said. “I think it symbolizes family and camaraderie and friendship. We always like to say, ‘Come home to our town for Christmas.'”
Go to www.johnsoncity-texas.com for more on the Lights Spectacular. Go to www.tex-fest.com/regional for more on the Hill Country Lighting Trail.