Holiday cheer is just around the bend

Published 3:31 pm Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Holidays are right around the corner, and that means seasonal celebrations for the Golden Triangle area.

The Port Arthur Historical Society is hosting its Christmas at the Villa from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Pompeiian Villa at 1953 Lakeshore Drive, Port Arthur.

The Groves Chamber of Commerce is holding its 4th annual Lighting of the City Christmas Tree and an Old Fashioned Christmas at 6 p.m. Dec. 2 at Celebration Park, 4411 Lincoln Ave. in Groves.

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Ronnie Boneau, the executive manager for the Groves Chamber, credits the Groves Beautification Committee for much of the festive mood that permeates the park and the downtown area. The Committee also sponsors the annual lighting.

“What we do is take the atmosphere that the Beautification Committee sets and move it down a block from the park to Downtown Groves,” Boneau said.

“The Beautification Committee maintains Celebration Park on the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Coolidge. They annually light the city Christmas tree and are responsible for decorating the park. With help from the city, they put it up.”

According to Boneau, the mayor traditionally flips the switch for the tree. The lighting event features a performance from the children’s choir of Groves Elementary and a nativity scene set up by Immaculate Conception Church.

Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus are also scheduled to attend.

“It draws a pretty good crowd,” Boneau said. “And then the Old Fashioned Christmas is the Chamber’s effort made up with other businesses and with people from Groves that make up that committee.”

Boneau explained that there are 10 or more activity booths set up by volunteers who work and pay for it.

“Our main goal is to have a community Christmas and to celebrate Christmas as a community,” Boneau said.

Boneau emphasized how the Old Fashioned event was a “very inexpensive event” and how there’s “a minimal charge for food.”

“Kids can come out and play in a variety of activity booths. They can also write letters to Santa and have them sent to the post office,” Boneau said.

“We have the Clauses come downtown and talk to the children. We have a lady who comes down and reads Christmas stories to the kids.”

According to Boneau, the event is getting bigger.

“Between the food, free activity booths, Santa Claus and reading to children, it’s really turned out to be a pretty big event,” Boneau said.

Boneau estimated that the event lasts for 90 to 120 minutes, “but for that hour and 30 minutes in the park and in downtown, it is packed.”

In past events, Boneau said, there were so many people in attendance “you couldn’t even see the end of the block.”

“We thought there would be somewhere around 400 people,” Boneau said. “But we estimated at least a 1,000.”

Low cost and good value also seemed to be important aspects of the event to Boneau.

“It’s very inexpensive; so, we’re hoping it’ll be the same if you have one or six kids. The food price is very reasonable.

“We have a big variety of local types of food.”

When asked what made the event “Old Fashioned,” Boneau highlighted the past.

“This really came out of growing up in Port Arthur. I went to the parades in Port Arthur and saw Santa Claus at stores like Sears,” Boneau said.

“This is what we are trying to capture — the old fashioned Christmas that us older adults experienced as children. Hopefully, it will develop into something that kids could experience like we did as adults.”

According to Boneau, it is designed to be both a family- and community-minded event.

“This is our way of giving back to the community, and we can celebrate Christmas as a community.”

Groves is holding its Lighted Christmas Parade the following day at 6 p.m. on Dec. 3. The parade route starts on Cleveland, goes down 39th Street and ends on Gulf Avenue.

The Port Neches Chamber of Commerce holds its Christmas Parade at 2 p.m. on Dec. 3. The parade will start on Port Neches Avenue and go down to Riverfront Park.

“We do it on the Avenue to bring shopping down to the Avenue,” Debbie Plaia, executive director for the Port Neches Chamber, said. “It should bring a lot of tourism and a lot of attention to the businesses there.”

Plaia listed several organizations as being involved with the parade, such as the Coast Guard, Miss Port Neches Royalty, the PNG High School band, Acadian Ambulance, dance studios, twirling studios, churches, restaurants and the Port Neches Fire Department.

Donnie Broussard of Pizza Inn will be the parade marshal.

“He’s kind of a local celebrity around here,” Plaia said of the restaurant owner.

Admission is free, but to taking part in the parade requires a donation.

“To be in the parade, we’re taking non-perishable food items and other items like blankets,” Plaia said. “We donate those to local nonprofit organizations in the county. We will give that out to everyone before Christmas.”

Plaia extended an invitation out to residents from all towns, not just Port Neches.

“We invite everyone to come out. There are plenty of things going on in the entire county for the holiday that’s not just ours. And they involve having a great family time.”

Not to be outdone, the Nederland Parks and Recreation Department is hosting its Christmas on the Avenue from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 3 along Boston Avenue in Nederland.

The Bridge City Chamber of Commerce is holding its 8th Annual Christmas Light Parade at 6 p.m. Dec. 3. The parade will start at First Baptist Church on West Roundbunch Road and end at Bridge City Intermediate School.

A week later, the City of Port Arthur is holding its annual Cultural Lighted Holiday Parade at 6 p.m. on Dec. 10. The parade route starts at Procter Street and goes down toward Houston Avenue.

Finally, the Nederland Chamber of Commerce is running its annual Lighted Christmas Parade at 6 p.m. on Dec. 13.

“It starts on 21st Street and goes down to 12th Street. It goes from 12th to Boston Avenue and ends at Central Middle School,” Diana LaBorde, president and CEO of the Nederland Chamber, said.

“At the very end of the parade is Santa on a firetruck.”

“I don’t know how he makes the time,” LaBorde said of St. Nick. “But he makes it every year.”

The Nederland Christmas Parade is set to include many fun features, according to LaBorde.

“It’s an annual nighttime lighted Christmas parade. All the floats are lit up,” LaBorde said.

“We have a lot of local high school and middle school bands; we have a lot of local businesses. Cheerleaders and Big Ned are in our parade.”

A new feature is also scheduled for the annual event.

“We’re doing a little something different this year — we’re having a motorcade precede the parade. Cowboy Harley has several motorcycles coming in,” LaBorde said.

“Behind them, Chief (Darrell) Bush is the beginning of the parade. The color guard is behind him every year.

“It’s a group of veterans who comprise the color guard and are wonderful guys.”

LaBorde expressed optimism about the parade’s continued growth.

“Every year it gets bigger and bigger. The crowd gets bigger and bigger. Angel San Juan and Charlie Jehlen will be the announcers for our parade.”

LaBorde said the parade would be videotaped and aired on TV with all the names of the floats and their descriptions.

“We have three prize categories: commercial, non-commercial and auto. We have 1st and 2nd place for each category,” LaBorde said.

“It’s grown so much. There are 600 to 800 people involved, including dancing schools and twirling schools…

“What’s gotten really crazy is the crowd. We’ve got people from one month to 100 years old. The nighttime parade always draws a big crowd. It’s so worth it.”