Hallettsville festival of lights brings pride to community
Nov. 26, 2011 at 5:26 a.m.
Updated Nov. 27, 2011 at 5:27 a.m.
HALLETTSVILLE - Anna Klekar didn't have children of her own. But seeing small faces light up during the holidays brought her joy.
She and her husband, Daniel Klekar, were inspired to make boys and girls smile during the holidays.
"We wanted to give something to others to remember us by," said Anna Klekar.
In 1996, the Klekars envisioned the festival of lights and other members of the community, helped her to finance the dream.
Fifteen years and 329,000 light bulbs later, the Hallettsville Festival of Lights has become a South Texas staple.
The Lavaca County Courthouse is the focal point of the festivities, as well as a historic landmark. Organizers had to comply to the strict rules of the Texas Historical Commission.
There is no cost to attend the day's festivities because the Hallettsville Economic Development Corporation funds the project.
Saturday evening kicked off the event with a lighting extravaganza.
Claude Stoner, a Hallettsville native, has brought his wife and five children to the event for the past several years.
"It's a good sight to see. It's spiritual," he said.
He also said people of all religions can come together to enjoy the sparkling spectacular.
In addition to the lighting ceremony, there was also a kiddie parade, a lighted Christmas parade and a Christmas pageant - celebrating the life of Christ - with live camels and donkeys.
Todd Schindler, one of the pageant directors, said the festival ushers in the true meaning of the holidays.
"Christmas is not about what electronics you get; it's about God and faith," he said.
Schindler said he went to the Gospel of Luke to write the play and doesn't take any personal credit.
"It's nothing I thought of; the good word provided it," he said.
Jean Schaefer was devastated when the Klekars were unable to continue the celebration.
"My eyes filled with tears," she said. With sheer determination, she told her husband Roy Schaefer, "We have to let this continue."
Since 2004, the Schaefers helped organize the festival with 13 other volunteers.
Jean Schaefer said that the lighting ceremony is like a ministry.
"We want to portray peace, love, hope and joy," she said. "Jesus is the light of the world."
Although, the last seven years have gone without a hitch, the female organizer, Schaefer, still gets nervous.
One volunteer, Jim Jakubek, said he likes pushing her buttons by counting down the time until the big event.
"I do it to agitate her," he said.
"Shut up, Jim" would be Schaefer's response every time.
Both of them roared with laughter.
Saturday evening as the sun set, the wind kicked into full gear. Close to 500 people huddled in blankets and sipped cider to stay warm.
The crowd was muted as the bulbs lit up the night sky. Klekar was in awe, once again.
"When those lights come on, we act like it's the first time," she said.