DENHAM SPRINGS -- Teenager Colin Dyson walked to the microphone, looked at the holiday-loving crowd, spread his arms wide, and shouted a yuletide greeting in a cheerful voice.
“Welcome to Christmas in the Village,” he said from the footsteps of Old City Hall.
Dyson’s welcome officially kicked off the City of Denham Springs’ annual Christmas in the Village celebration, a month-long community-wide holiday program that takes place in the Antique Village.
The fifth annual celebration launched with the Lighting of Old City Hall, when thousands of lights twinkled to life atop the historic building in downtown Denham Springs and in nearby Sanctuary Park, which was filled with lit-up gingerbread houses, candy canes, Christmas trees, and angels.
Hundreds of people flocked to Mattie Street for the event on Friday, Nov. 29. They were treated to Christmas music, a radio play, wagon and carnival rides, and one special guest who arrived after making his list and checking it twice.
“Merry Christmas,” shouted a man dressed as Santa Claus.
The three-hour program had something for everyone.
The Young Artists’ Academy Gospel Choir, comprised of children 5-18 years old, entertained the crowd with classic holiday jingles standing on the steps of Old City Hall. Once the choir sang its last tune, organizer Al Bye again welcomed the crowd to an event he said takes all of the city departments working together, “from the lights to the extension cords.”
Bye passed a holiday message to the crowd from Denham Springs Mayor Gerard Landry, who was absent from the gathering because of the flu. Landry is credited for having the idea to start the family-friendly holiday program five years ago, when there was only “a little skit, Santa Claus, and a speech from the mayor.”
Now, Christmas in the Village has grown so much that everyone has a hand in it, Bye said.
“Everything you see has been done by the different departments [of the City of Denham Springs],” Bye said. “And we can’t do it without them.”
Bye and the choir led the crowd in a countdown, with lights coming to life once they all screamed “One!” After the area was lit, people were free to wonder where they wished.
Some took photos with Santa Claus and other Christmas characters; some sipped on refreshments and munched on snacks that were being handed out free of charge; some dropped off their Christmas lists inside a mailbox marked for the North Pole; and some went inside Old City Hall and enjoyed a radio-style production of “A Christmas Carol” put on by the Spotlight Theater Players.
Concluding the night was local country singer Chase Tyler, a Denham Springs native who was officially inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame on Wednesday, Nov. 27. With a guitar slung over his shoulder, Tyler serenaded a group of music-loving children with several Christmas tunes from the footsteps of the historic downtown building.
The Christmas in the Village festivities carried over to Saturday, Nov. 30, for the all-day Christmas Open House. The open house featured rides, Christmas characters, and more as shoppers perused the Antique Village’s plethora of locally-owned businesses.
And last weekend was just the start.
On Thursday, Dec. 5, Denham Springs Main Street will put on the 19th Annual Holiday Chef’s Evening and Wine Tasting, an advanced-ticket event that will run from 7-9 p.m. in the Antique Village.
A week later on Thursday, Dec. 12, the Denham Springs Kiwanis Club will present the Lighting of the Christmas Tree at Train Station Park at 6 p.m., followed by the Kiwanis Club’s annual Christmas Parade at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14.
A live nativity program will take place at Train Station Park from 6-7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 21. Livingston Parish SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) will put on the program, which will wrap up this year’s Christmas in the Village celebration.
In addition, people are invited to sing Christmas carols through downtown Denham Springs and the surrounding neighborhoods on Dec. 7 and Dec. 21.