Lights on

Downtown Bryan has been decorated for the holidays.

Downtown Bryan residents and small businesses are coming together again to kick off the Christmas season with their annual light festival.

Downtown Bryan is celebrating its Lights On event Friday, Nov. 19, an activity for family and friends to enjoy early Christmas festivities, free of charge for the community. Destination Bryan public relations and communications manager Abigail Noel said she is excited about celebrating the event again this year, especially after dealing with differences due to the COVID-19 regulations. 

“Light’s On [has] been going on [for] 12 years now, so it [has] been a staple [to] the Downtown Bryan [community] for over a decade,” Noel said. “We're really excited to bring it back full-scale. Last year, [it] had to look a little different with some COVID-19 regulations, but this year, it's pretty much full-scale like it had been in the past, plus some additional activities.”

Destination Bryan tourism event coordinator Amanda Driewer said there will be plenty of fun activities this year for individuals to get into the Christmas spirit.

“The Palace [Theatre and Hotel] will have the [Stephen F. Austin Middle School, or SFA,] Orchestra performing at 6:45 [p.m.], with Ballet Brazos to follow at 7:30 [p.m.],” Driewer said. “Sale Park will be having the Salvation Army band performing, [followed by] a ceremony by the mayor [and] Santa’s [appearance] at 6:30 [p.m.] when the lights come on. [Additionally, the] SFA choir [and a] TAMU dance group [will be] performing afterward.”

Driewer said with a new street closure, there will be a lot of new activities happening as well.

“This year, [we] will also be having a north-end closure, where the Bryan hockey team will be out there with a kids activity. [An] all-aboard fun train [will be there] as well, so we will have free train rides,” Driewer said. “[An] additional performance by the TAMU dance group [will be] on that north-end closure and ... we will also be having professional photographers [all around].”

Many small businesses also plan to contribute and celebrate in their own fun ways for the holiday event. Bird’s Nest manager Chrissy Sayers said many of the shop owners decorate their windows for the event, with some having different themes. She also said that decorating tends to become a friendly competition between fellow merchants. 

“Years past, we've also had a window decorating contest, so that gets all of the merchants in downtown [involved in a] little friendly competitiveness … but that is part of that small-town Christmas where you can stroll along the sidewalks and look at all the pretty decorated windows in downtown,” Sayers said. “We make sure that our front window is decorated and we do a different theme every year. I think this year we're going to do Santa Claus’ office.”

West Webb Allbritton & Gentry attorney and shareholder Baili Rhodes said her law firm is a presenting sponsor for the event, and while the firm is not working on the event, it did want to contribute and support the event through donations.

“We've made a donation to the event and we're going to have some little swag and gift bags,” Rhodes said. “But we really, just as business owners and the community, wanted to contribute and support the event … we plan to come with a bunch of our families to enjoy it as well.”

Sayers said her favorite part about the festivities is being able to bring the community together and celebrate the tradition of the event. 

“I like that it is bringing people from the community to downtown to experience that small-town Christmas in downtown,” Sayer said. “Our town is growing, but we still have so many things that we do that are tradition, and I think it adds to our community and things that you can do for free here to help experience your Christmas spirit.”

Sayers said she encourages individuals interested in more information or other events happening in Downtown Bryan to follow Destination Bryan on social media and sign up for the newsletters.

Rhodes, a member of A&M’s Class of 2005, said she also had her fair share of experience with Downtown Bryan and noticed the overtime change in the growing community. 

“A&M is all-consuming and that's a wonderful cool thing, but you're also in a pretty growing community that [has] been around [for a while] but [has] a lot of vibrant growth happening. We're not Houston [or] Austin, but there's tremendous growth happening in our community that you can really be a part of,” Rhodes said. “You will all be enriched probably more than you realize by seeing some of that stuff, so I just encourage [you all to] take advantage of [the] opportunity.”

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