Festivals make for weekend-long celebration

Festivals make for weekend-long celebration

Festivals make for weekend-long celebration
December 03
23:09 2014

Kayleigh Bywater / Intern Writer

As Dentonites walk along the Square, twinkling lights, carolers humming holiday tunes and the smell of hot apple cider surrounds them.

Since 1988, the Denton Main Street Association has held a Holiday Lighting Festival for the community. Since 1996, there has also been a Wassail Fest on the same day. The festivals are held to bring locals together at the start of the holiday season.

However, there has been a significant change in the order of events for this year. Unlike previous years, the Wassail Fest will now be held on both Friday night and Saturday afternoon.

The event coordinator for the Denton Main Street Association, Christine Gossett, said there were many factors in deciding to move the Wassail Fest to a separate day.

“Of course it will increase traffic for our small businesses on the Square,” Gossett said. “However, by moving the Wassail Fest to a different day, it also gives locals one more reason to come downtown and interact with the community at this spirited time of the year.”

The Holiday Lighting Festival will be Friday, Dec. 5 from 5:30-9:30 p.m., and the Wassail Fest will be held Saturday, Dec. 6 from 2-6 p.m. For a complete list of activities and a schedule of events, visit www.dentonholidaylighting.com.

Lighting the city

The Denton Holiday Lighting Festival is a sponsor-funded, volunteer event that has been a spectacle in Denton County for the past 26 years. It has grown from a small tree lighting in 1988 to a massive celebration with more than 2,500 in attendance.

From riding in a horse-drawn carriage to holiday arts and crafts for children, this event, which is held annually two Fridays after Thanksgiving, is a time to kick off the holiday season.

Kathy Glasschroeder, the chairperson for the Denton Main Street Association and Wassail Fest, said even though there would be an abundance of activities for Dentonites, the lighting of the Christmas tree is a sight that should not be missed.

“Lighting the tree is such an amazing, beautiful moment,” Glasschroeder said. “People get so excited and full of joy when they see all the lights come to life. Denton is a fun, small town, and being able to have the community participating and excited to see the tree light up is an amazing feeling.”

An abundance of apple cider 

Along with the Holiday Lighting is the long-standing tradition of Wassail Fest.

“Wassail has English origins,” said Monte Jensen, Denton Main Street Association President and owner of Mellow Mushroom. “It is a hot mulled apple cider that was traditionally drunk as part of an ancient southern English drinking ritual, usually associated with Yuletide activities.”

Traditional wassail usually has alcohol in it, but festivalgoers will have to do without the liquor.

“Because our event is family friendly, our merchants are not allowed to include alcohol in their creation,” Jensen said.

In previous years, it was a challenge for locals to visit all the wassail tables in one night because usually around 40 vendors participated. For this year’s festival, some merchants are serving wassail on Friday night as well as Saturday. 

“We want everyone to be able to experience all of the different types of wassail that we have,” Jensen said. “Last year, we had so many people eating at Mellow Mushroom while looking around the Holiday Lighting Festival that I could not afford to have someone serving wassail. This year, everyone who wants to participate will be able to, whether it be on Friday, Saturday or both days.”

Almost all the businesses on the Square, as well as some outside vendors, will create their own batch of wassail. Glasschroeder said she will create a batch, but has no idea what the competition will be like on her quest to become Wassail Queen.

“People will have ballots as they go around and taste all the different types of wassail,” Glasschroeder said. “At the end, someone is crowned the Wassail King or Queen and gets a little crown and bragging rights.”

Don’t expect to see just the traditional beverage at the festival. Glasschroeder said a few recipes have their own spin.

“Some people go way out of the box, like putting barbeque sauce in theirs,” she said. “It is just really fun to see how creative everyone is with his or her wassail. You never know what you will get when you go up to a table.” 

There will also be opportunities for children to take pictures and talk with Santa on the courthouse lawn and listen to acoustic musicians playing melodies along the streets. 

“We are also going to have trivia contests about wassail on our Facebook page so that people can feel even more involved,” Gossett said. “Our main goal is for everyone to just have a great time.”

Holiday cheer in Denton

For students at UNT, the holiday festivals are a way to get involved during the holiday season while they are away from home.

Engineering freshman Steven Harris said events like this not only make students feel more at home, but also bring everyone together.

“Events that are put on by Denton, like the Holiday Lighting, allow everyone to interact and be together,” he said. “Even though Denton is a small college town, these events make it seem so much bigger than it really is. It is really cool to see how something like this can bring the whole community together.” 

Even with the Wassail Fest on a different day, the members of the Denton Main Street Association hope that attendance will remain the same on both days.

Kelley Pound, the board chair for the Denton Holiday Festival Association, said if anything, the community will get more out of the festivals with them being on two separate days.

“This is a big transition for us this year,” Pound said. “However, this is going to create an expanded ‘Denton Holiday Weekend’ in which visitors can take in the festival on Friday with all the music, dancing and food, and then hit the Wassail Fest on Saturday for the sipping and shopping. We really look forward to a good crowd this year, especially since the event was canceled last year due to an ice storm. We are all looking forward to picking up where we left off.”

Featured Image: Holiday decorations line the square in preparation for the annual Denton Holiday Lighting Festival. The festival will be held Friday, December 5 from 5:30 to 9:30. Photo by Devin Dakota – Staff Photographer

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