Despite shirtsleeve temperatures, the Christmas spirit prevailed as thousands of East Texans slid down a snow hill, threw snowballs, shopped, visited Santa, listened to Christmas music and enjoyed the outdoors at Bergfeld Park.
Her mother, Sarah Platten, said she brings her two daughters every year. “The kids enjoy it and they have a lot of fun. They love the snowballs and coming down on the tubes,” Ms. Platten said.
The fact that East Texas does not receive much natural snow added to the appeal of the event, she said.
The snow hill stood about 11 1/2 feet high and was covered with about 60,000 pounds of ice snow, estimated Chris Kassen, a worker with 4P Entertainment Group, the company that brought in the attraction.
Riders lined up and climbed stairs to the top of the hill, then sat down in inflated tubes for the ride down. Some came down front first, some sidewise and some backward.
“It was fast and fun,” Justin Young, 11, said.
Daisy Verdara, 15, also said it was fun, but quickly refrained from riding again because of a fear of heights.
Emma excitedly called the ride “awesome.”
The only requirement to ride a tube down the hill was to be over 42 inches tall.
The snow was actually ice fed through a machine that smashed it into very fine snow-like chunks, Kassen said. Depth of the snow varied from 6 to 8 inches.
“As it freezes over, we put salt on it, so you get going pretty fast coming down,” Kassen said.
The snow play area was about 30 feet by 30 feet. Youngsters who entered the play area had snowball fights or did whatever they felt like doing to play in the snow, he said.
His company travels primarily around Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma during the winter months and close to Christmas to set up the snow hill and snow play area to bring a touch of northern snowy winters to the south.
According to some estimates, as much as 85,000 pounds of ice were used for the snow hill and play area combined during the two-day event.
“We average 8,000 to 10,000 people every year. It's a fun event not only for families of children, but for singles and people that just want to get out of the house and come and shop and watch the faces of kids.”
Cars lined both sides of the streets for blocks in all directions. Santa circled overhead in a helicopter, landed at the nearby Brookshire's store parking lot and came to the event on a motorcycle.
Wearing a genial smile, he made his way through the throngs of children who shouted “Here comes Santa.” He patted many on the head, took some by the hand and made his way to a small house where he sat down, hoisted them on his lap and talked with them.
Another big Holiday in the Park attraction was a 24-foot-tall climbing wall. Children as young as 3 were allowed to climb the wall but were required to weigh at least 30 pounds.
“I tell them to use their hands and feet and stay close to the wall. It's like climbing stairs,” said Brett Hartsell of American Party Entertainment, a Dallas company that bought in the rock wall.
In coaxing climbers, he also showed them how to come down. “It (the wall) is very safe,” he said.
Nearby were a superman obstacle course maze and a bungee jump.
“Today's her 4th birthday,” he said. “I thought she was going to be scared but she likes this.”
Several groups entertained the crowds, including Candy Crocker School of Dance, Waiting Until Marriage Dance Group, Fly Kids and New Days Community Church Youth.
Scattered about the grounds were many booths.
A food tent sold burgers, hot dogs, sausage on a stick, nachos, turkey legs, snow cones, fries, funnel cakes, corn dogs, tacos, sausage wraps, steak quesadillas, chicken, brownies and other goodies.
The bazaar featured a wide assortment of booths.
Lonnie Robinson, a blacksmith, displayed in his booth steak turners and art work. “They signify what our forefathers had to do to earn a living,” he said.
Dory Hersey, a landscaper, exhibited holiday arrangements of plants, feather headbands for all ages, nature photography on greeting cards and a ragamuffler, which is a cross between a muffler and a necklace.
Close by, Jessie Bullock's booth featured medicinal herbs grown on her farm in Van. “I craft them into healing body products — salves for dry skin, lip balm, products that heal sun burn, products to help with inflammation and joint pain and I also make goat milk soap,” she said.
Chris Crye sold pet bandanas for dogs, cats and even horses. David Fisher's booth was stocked with crosses, hats, purses, watches and a few toys.
Vikki Renfro said she enjoys coming to the festival every year with her baby, shopping, seeing the snow and games and events.
Danny Liles with his son Emerson, 5, hustled over after getting off work. He said his son enjoyed the rock wall — the refreshments were great — and he liked the music. “It's just a nice relaxing way to spend the afternoon,” Liles said.
As it grew dark, a movie titled “Arthur Christmas” was shown in the amphitheater.
Sponsors included Brookshire's, Super One Foods, Jalapeno Tree, Silver Leaf Resource, KLTV, Roberts & Roberts, Contractor's Building Supply and Ted Kamel Foods.