After a pandemic pause last year, two holiday traditions — the Denton Holiday Lighting Festival and Wassail Weekend — return to downtown Denton on Friday, December 3 and Saturday, December 4, 2021.
Denton Holiday Lighting Festival
According to Denton Parks Foundation Executive Director Brooke Moore, who is also serving as president of the Denton Holiday Lighting Festival board, the Denton Holiday Lighting Festival is the way the Denton community kicks off the holiday season. “It really allows Denton to feel like a small community and we’re all united around one thing, whether you’re celebrating Christmas or Hannukah — it’s the fact that we’re all coming together and celebrating these beautiful lights together,” she adds.
A holiday tradition in Denton since 1988, last year the Denton Holiday Lighting Festival turned from an in-person event to a socially distanced event with a drive-thru experience and virtual performances.
This year the event will be held in person on Friday, December 3rd from 6 pm to 9 pm in downtown Denton, however, it will still be a bit different than in years past, Moore says.
In addition to the traditional tree lighting at the Denton County Courthouse-on-the-Square, the festival will include four other holiday “zones” around the downtown area within a short walking distance of the Square. “it’s going to be essentially a tree trail where you can walk along and look at decorated trees, following each location to another,” Moore explains.
Each zone will have different holiday-themed activities, music, and a fully decorated Christmas tree. And the walking pathways between the zones will also be decorated with lights to keep participants in the holiday spirit as they move from zone to zone. “We’ll have little maps that will show you a good route to take and we’ll have decorations along the way,” Moore adds.
In addition to the holiday zones, this year’s Denton Holiday Lighting Festival will feature horse carriage rides around the Square, and of course Santa Claus will be on hand for photo opportunities.
Moore says the Denton Holiday Lighting Festival board has been looking for an opportunity to expand their event past the Square, and this year is giving them that opportunity. And by spreading it out they’re able to make it safer for everyone involved. “If you’re worried about being shoulder to shoulder, which is really typical for our holiday lighting, this gives you an opportunity to spread out and get some space,” she adds.
Friday, December 3rd also sees the return of Wassail Weekend, which was canceled due to COVID-19 last year.
According to Christine Gossett, executive director of the Denton Main Street Association, this year’s Wassail Weekend will include wassail tastings from 5 pm to 8:30 pm on Friday, December 3rd during the Denton Holiday Light Festival, as well as on Saturday, December 4th from 11 am to 4 pm. Gossett says Downtown Denton stores and restaurants generally set up their tasting stations outside of their businesses so participants can easily get their 2-3 ounce sample cups of their wassail.
On Saturday, in addition to continued wassail tastings, there will be photo opportunities with Santa, strolling musicians, and Gossett says many local businesses will offer specials and discounts for holiday shopping. The full schedule for this year’s Wassail Weekend will be up on their website soon.
A Denton tradition since 1999, Gossett says Wassail Weekend started with about 10 businesses participating. Now on average, they have between 30 to 35 taking part in the event. “It’s really a great way for the businesses to wish everyone well for the holiday season and to thank them for patronizing them throughout the year,” Gossett explains. “The businesses put in a lot of time to prepare their recipes. It takes a lot of ingredients, a lot of effort on their part, but they love doing it for the community. And they love doing the competition for the bragging rights.”
Speaking of the competition, Gossett says that will also return this year. Wassail Weekend participants will have the chance to vote through the event’s official website and social media for their favorite wassail.
All in all, Gossett says Wassail Weekend and the Denton Holiday Festival emphasize the feelings of community and friendly vibes the Downtown Denton area is known for. And she says the expansion of the Denton Holiday Light Festival gives people a chance to get out and walk around downtown to see what’s new in the area. “Our downtown has grown so much and there’s so much beyond the Square, so it’s a great way to encourage people to get out and see everything,” she adds. “We have a lot of businesses that have done a lot of great jobs on rehabilitating a building or renovating a building for a business, so it’s a great way to get out and see those great new additions to our downtown as well.”
In addition to kicking off the holiday season, the Denton Holiday Lighting Festival and Wassail Weekend also strive to raise awareness for those in need during this time of year.
The Denton Holiday Lighting Festival hosts a toy drive for Elves Shelves — an outreach ministry of First Baptist Denton that helps provide Christmas gifts to families in need throughout the community. “Folks are invited to bring a toy that day or donate a toy online where you donate $5 and it will go towards the purchase of a toy,” Moore says. “We’re coming together, we’re celebrating the kickoff of the season, but we’re also making sure others are having a wonderful season as well.”
And if you’d like to be a part of the Denton Holiday Lighting Festival, the event is always in need of volunteers. Moore says they need at least 50 volunteers for the day of the event to help with setting up the different zones and running the activities. She says volunteers will have the opportunity to sign-up on their website in the next few weeks.
Date & Time
The Denton Holiday Lighting Festival will take place from 6 pm to 9 pm on Friday, December 3rd in and around Denton Square. For more information and a full schedule of activities, visit dentonholidaylighting.com.
Wassail Weekend will take place 5 pm to 8:30 pm on Friday, December 3rd during the Denton Holiday Light Festival, and Saturday, December 4th from 11 am to 4 pm in and around Denton Square. For more information, a full schedule of activities, and contest voting information, click here.