Thousands of Tyler residents and visitors came together on a chilly night to celebrate the holidays Thursday by watching a long, colorful parade followed by the lighting of 5,500 lights on the city's Christmas tree by the 2017 Children's Miracle Network Miracle Child.
Parade watchers lined the streets downtown - standing or sitting on the curbs - many using folding chairs and others wrapped in blankets.
For Makayla Bishop, 13, of Brownsboro, the highlight was the lighting of the tree in T.B. Butler Fountain Plaza by Destiny Williams, 14, who was born with sickle cell disease and was named the Miracle Child.
For Amber Sides, of Tyler, accompanied by six children and friends, the big attractions of the parade were the lighted floats and bands. At least a half-dozen bands played Christmas music as they marched along the streets.
Her daughter, Aniya, 7, said her favorite thing about the parade was the Christmas holidays and giving.
"The Tyler parade is a tradition like no other in this town," Steve Tonjes, of Tyler, said "I like (seeing) all the people, all the lights and all the camaraderie. Everybody is in such a good mood."
It was Karan Jackson's first year to see the parade. She observed that everyone in the parade was "fun and engaging."
"The bands were the best thing," said Bobby Nick, of Tyler. "It's cool seeing all the people here and that Christmas feeling."
Holding her 2-year-old granddaughter in her lap while sitting in a chair she brought, Lisa Russell, of Van, looked for her older granddaughter marching in the parade. The younger girl liked the lights, she said.
Ms. Russell has come to the parade for years and watching it Thursday reminded her of when she marched in the parade a long time ago representing John Tyler High School. "Now I'm watching them do it," the grandmother said with a laugh about young people in Thursday's parade.
Katy Smith, of Hallsville, who was waiting as parade entries moved by, said she was anxious to see Santa Claus, who rode in a classic car.
Mike Matthews, of Tyler, leaned on a parking meter watching the parade go by. What draws him back to see the parade every year, he said, is being part of the festive event, seeing so many people from the community and witnessing everybody being so much in the Christmas spirit.
"I liked the music part of it. All of the outfits are interesting and I like how much effort some people put into their float," said Violet Orchard, of Tyler.
Tyler Rotary Clubs sponsored the parade - South Tyler Rotary Club, Downtown Rotary Club and Sunrise Rotary Club.
Opening the lighting ceremony for the 30-foot-tall Leyland Cypress Christmas tree, Mayor Martin Heines said, "This is a special time for our community. ... It is a great example of how we come out as a community in the center of the community to celebrate with our children and to have Santa Claus here."
The Clarkston choir sang and the Tyler Junior College Apache Belles danced before the Miracle Child, Miss Williams, flipped the switch making lights on the Christmas tree shine brightly.
She was praised for her positive outlook and involvement in normal teenager activities despite her illness, which is inherited and incurable.
The Rotary Club plans to announce Friday the winners in the parade in several categories.