By any standard, Christmas in the Park in Cuero is an awe-inspiring display of holiday lights.

Nightly from Nov. 25 through Jan. 1, Crossroads residents will break out the hot cocoa or eggnog, crank up their car heaters (when necessary, which means every other day in Texas) and head to the Cuero Municipal Park from 6 to 10 p.m. to experience the wonder.

The fact that an effort started by a few community-minded residents interested in spreading holiday cheer has evolved into an extravaganza that a city of any size would be proud to claim is a testament to the enthusiasm, determination and resourcefulness of the small town’s residents.

A group of residents began wrapping the trees in the park in 2000, said Patrick J. Kennedy, executive director of the Cuero Development Corp. Eventually, the event became so massive that it was moved under the management of the development corporation “because they had to put it somewhere,” but the December Events Committee, and ad hoc committee of the corporation, has its own board of directors. The event is self-supporting, he said.

Today, about 300 lighted displays and hundreds of twinkling trees and snowflakes leave impressions that brighten the holiday season for all who participate in the free, self-guided, car-navigated tour.

Over the course of two decades, the display has grown into a tradition for many Crossroads families but also an experience eagerly anticipated by friends and family who visit our area during the holidays.

An elf elevated in a man-lift placing a star atop a Christmas tree is one of 16 new displays that will find a place in the park this year. The 34-by-19-foot scene was donated by Energy Waste. Purchases made by the December Events Committee include a 40-by-9-foot snowboarding snowman scene and a 15-by-15-foot elf cottage with one elf carrying a present and another holding a wreath.

Those who want to grab complimentary hot chocolate courtesy of TexasTrust Bank should make plans to attend any Thursday during December. McDonald’s, H-E-B and the DeWitt County Farm Bureau will serve the hot beverages from 7 to 9 p.m. Dec. 5, 12 and 26, respectively. Dec. 19, Joe Adams and his family will serve the hot chocolate from 6 to 10 p.m. Last year, the Adams family handed out more than 1,000 cups, Kennedy said.

The Live Nativity, which is sponsored by First United Methodist Church, will be from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 19 and 22 and from 7 to 9:15 p.m. Dec. 20 and 21.

Last year, all of the fragile incandescent bulbs were replaced with more sturdy, efficient, and brighter LED bulbs for the first time. The conversion was expected to take about three years but wrapped up in just two with a $20,000 grant from the Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative.

The change also has saved an enormous amount of time, Kennedy said. In the past, volunteers – primarily members of the Community Squad of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice – Stephenson Unit in Cuero – had to change the thousands of incandescent bulbs each summer in preparation for the next display. Kennedy expressed appreciation to the squad and the City of Cuero for their continued efforts in erecting and lighting the scenes in the park for a successful event.

The scenes are purchased early each year to take advantage of seasonal discounts. This year, the budget was $75,000, of which $60,000 came from gate receipts at last year’s event. Most people who enjoy the display show their appreciation with donations. The funding covers electricity to light the display, the work conducted by city employees and the purchase of additional scenes.

Almost 100,000 visitors wend their way through the park in more than 19,000 vehicles each year.

“A few years ago we used comment cards, and our observation was that our biggest draw is from Victoria,” Kennedy said. “And people come more in the earlier shift from 6 to 8 p.m.”

For the eighth consecutive year, Crossroads residents have voted Christmas in the Park the Victoria Advocate’s Best of the Best Holiday Event.

In the future, Kennedy hopes to replace the signage that accompanies each lighted display in the park with a keepsake book for coffee tables that lists all of the scenes and the various entities that purchased them.

The Victoria Advocate encourages all to brighten their holidays with a tour of Christmas in the Park in Cuero. Don’t miss a unique Crossroads experience that residents of towns of any size, anywhere would proudly claim, enjoy and support.

This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate’s editorial board.

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