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GC: Christmas in Cuero is a light show to remember

By Jessica Rodrigo
Nov. 16, 2011 at 5:16 a.m.


By Jessica Rodrigo/jrodrigo@vicad.com

Nothing marks the start of the holiday season more than strings of lights strewn about wire forms in the shapes of Santa Claus or presents topped with bows.

In October, Cuero Municipal Park transforms into a decorated landscape filled with wire forms and wooden cutouts that mark the holiday season beginning the week of Thanksgiving.

Through a collaboration between the Cuero Development Corp. and the city of Cuero, Crossroads residents have had the opportunity to experience a magnificent light show for more than a decade.

Kay Lewis, one of the founders and president of Christmas in Cuero, an ad-hoc group of CDC, said the holiday event evolved 11 years ago when she and other members of the community and the city electrical department took holiday lights and decorated a handful of trees and a gazebo in the park. They waited to see what kind of response they would get and were surprised by the outcome.

"My husband kept going out there and looking and there were about 35 or 40 cars that drove through there that Thanksgiving night," she recalled. From there, she said they knew "it was a go."

After meeting with city officials and the CDC, the group was granted $2,500 in start up money, and the rest is history.

The setup

The graphic light installations are chosen from a special catalog, Crystal Valley Decorating,Inc., which builds the designs and ships them to Cuero.

The committee's artistic director, Tony Allen, said some of the designs are chosen by people in the community, while others are repeat scenes including the riverboat, which has been up almost every year since the event's inception.

"Most of what we put up is from donations. This year, we are going to have 30 new scenes and they're all from people who called and wanted to buy something for the park," Lewis said.

This year, the group will erect the nearly 40-foot tall American flag. It was down a few years ago when a group of juveniles vandalized the lights.

"They pushed the lights into the lake and pretty much destroyed the whole system," Allen said. "There is so much salt in the lake that the wiring and the bulb sockets were so corroded."

After the lights were retrieved from the lake, the only thing that was salvageable was the flag that rests on the riverboat scene. He said it took a lot of hours to get it back up and running for the show.

From start to finish

The flag is one of the larger scenes of Christmas in Cuero. It spans nearly 40 feet high by 48 feet wide and requires the use of a cherry picker to put it together.

The scenes are made of iron frames that fit together like puzzle pieces that hold each string of lights securely in place. Once stacked up, the frames are held in place by cables tethered to stakes.

"This is strictly volunteer work, but the city does come out and help with the larger scenes," Allen said. "They help with the taller scenes since we can't get up there."

Equipped with a cherry picker or a basket crane, employees of the city of Cuero Electric Department help move along the process.

Construction of the scenes begins in October and carries on until opening day, Nov. 21, with the bigger installations - the riverboat, flag and the sea serpent - behind the lake.

"We put up the flag for Turkeyfest and light it up for all the Wounded Warriors who come out," Allen said. "It's my favorite scene. I'm a red, white-and-blue person."

The crew of volunteers and city workers work five days a week after Turkeyfest to get the more than 125 scenes up and secured before opening day. But the work doesn't end there.

"I try out the lights and check the bulbs and changed about 20,000 plus this summer," said the retired police chief. He added that it's a long process that goes on after the show is over.

"We start taking it down in January, and a group of volunteers works on replacing the bulbs again."

Christmases in Cuero

Lewis said last year was the biggest year for Christmas in Cuero. The park, open from the Monday before Thanksgiving to News Year's Day, had more than 35,000 cars come through.

She added that the event in the park includes special days, like hot chocolate Thursdays, where the group will serve free hot chocolate to guests as they come through the park.

"This brought back memories of living in Friendswood," said the founder. She moved to Cuero about 12 years ago, and the event has been around ever since.

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