The joyful spirit of Christmas, and all things holiday, is alive and well in Crockett, Texas. On November 20, the Saturday before Thanksgiving, festival goers and holiday enthusiasts can stroll along the streets of downtown Crockett and experience the small-town charm of “Christmas in Crockett, on the Square” first hand. Festivities will begin at 10 a.m. and last until 5 p.m.
Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the festival will fill the downtown square and neighboring streets with a variety of booths for pre-Black Friday holiday shopping, food vendors, live entertainment, a car show, and activities for the kids.
“The festival has always been held the Saturday before Thanksgiving. When you think about it, what better way to welcome in the holiday season than by attending the very first holiday festival in the heart of the first county in Texas,” said Liza Clark, Crockett Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director. “I absolutely love seeing the delight on the children’s faces as they nibble on cotton candy or slide out of the bounce houses.”
“Christmas on the Square” is an annual Christmas tradition in Houston County that dates back to 1981. Patty Meyer and Dianne Rhone began the tradition many years ago with a handful of booths from local vendors that spread out around the downtown square. Now, it has now grown to over 250 vendors in 2019, with approximately 165 scheduled for this year.
“Due to COVID-19 considerations, we had to cut back on vendors so we could spread our booths out 4 to 6 feet apart, with some not returning due to being lost to COVID,” said Clark. “It’s sad for me that we lost vendors due to COVID, but it’s all the more reason to make sure this holiday tradition continues and brings us all a little bit closer together.”
Vendors and booth types range from local churches and youth groups to boutiques and local artisans and craftsmen. For Clark and others who regularly attend the festival, it’s more than a great shopping experience and family fun. It’s about family and tradition.
“We have some vendors that have been attending for 30 plus years, returning to the same booth every single year,” said Clark.
The excitement is apparent in Clark’s voice as she talks about the families that come back to the festival year after year to begin their holiday season. For instance, Clark talks about families coming from out of state to continue the tradition of starting their holiday off with the festival – even after the original festival attendee has passed.
“I marvel over the stories I hear of families coming together every year to attend Christmas in Crockett,” said Clark. “For me, that’s what it’s about – bringing families together and creating that experience for them.”
“As much of a tradition as it is for us, it’s become even more for some families,” said Clark. “Yes, it benefits our community by bringing in visitors to our beautiful downtown area and our unique boutiques and shops, but it has grown into so much more, and I’m honored to be a part of it.”
So, along with a sense of tradition and holiday spirit, ‘what exactly does the festival have to offer?’ you may ask.
Live entertainment for the day will consist of performances by local dance studio dancers. The first performance will be at 11 a.m., followed by another performance at 1:30 p.m.
There will be a map of performance locations and schedule posted on the chamber’s website at www.crockettareachamber.org.
For all the animal lovers big and small, Aardvark Animal Entertainment will be at the festival with a variety of animals for viewing and interaction with the public. Admission to this event is free. People will not be allowed inside the pens, but will be able to pet them through the fence. Pony, and possibly camel, rides will also be available. This attraction is sponsored by Smitty’s Bar-B-Q and Hamelinck Guns in Crockett.
Those wanting still more animal encounters, Stormy’s Place, which is full of creepy, crawly reptiles, will be back again this year. From a variety of spiders and lizards to nonpoisonous snakes, there will be many reptiles to view and purchase.
An all-time favorite, says Clark, the Bounce Houses are back! To help with the COVID-19 concerns, Clark says the houses will be continuously disinfected throughout the day. There will also be a rock wall available for climbing enthusiasts.
New and improved this year will be a kid favorite – train rides around the square. This year’s train is motorized, with a replica train engine and cars. The train will be running throughout the day.
Clark said there will be other kid related activies located around the square such as face painting, sand art, and various carnival midway style games.
Bakers of all ages get ready – it’s cookie time! There will be a cookie contest, which includes three age groups: ages 6-11; 12-18; and adults. The two categories will be decorated and holiday cookies. Contestants will need to bring cookies already decorated and have them turned in to the Chamber of Commerce booth by 1 p.m. Judges will consist of local fire, EMS, and police officers, as well as city officials.
Foodies will have a place all of their own at this year’s festival with the new Food Pavilion, sponsored by Pulse Physician in Crockett.
There will be more than 20 food vendors from all over Texas, with a variety of choices including typical fair food and Mediterranean style food. Also available will be old fashioned kettle corn and local honey producers, with live hives for festival goers to view. The Houston County Area Go Texan Committee will be on hand again to serve their sought-after brisket and hamburgers.
As a healthy alternative, specialty teas, homemade sparkling water, Italian sodas, and homemade syrups can also be found at the festival.
For those with a sweet tooth, Clark says there are plenty of options to go around. From pecan pie cheesecake that is “to die for” to handmade pies and Pecos Pete root beer, Clark says the options are endless.
Clark says one of the best parts of the festival’s vendors are the unique craftsmen who return each year.
“We have one vender, Antlers by Frank, who does artwork completely out of antlers,” explains Clark. “From lamps to tables, he has anything you can imagine.”
Festival goers can also find a variety of all-natural soaps and bath essentials. There are numerous boutiques that line the streets with everything from holiday wear to stylish shabby chic attire.
One vendor who Clark says is a hit every year is the Howling Mad Hot Sauce booth.
“Every year, he wears a kilt and is just hilarious,” said Clark. “The crowd loves him.”
There will be a complete vendor map on the chamber’s website at www.crockettareachamber.org.
There will be four PPE stations throughout the festival to help attendees stay safe. Each station will be manned with masks, sanitizer, and gloves available to the public.
“I love this festival so much, and I hope it is a success for my community, the vendors, and for the people who come,” said Clark. “I feel it is more important now more than ever to keep the tradition going and give families some sense of normal again.”