Holiday spirit arrives in downtown Waco

The Waco Wonderland festival features a Ferris Wheel, pictured in this Dec. 2015 file photo, train rides and a snow tube hill from Dec. 2 to 4 in downtown Waco. Photo credit: Lariat File Photo

By Megan Rule | Staff Writer

Waco kicks off the holiday season this weekend with the fourth annual Waco Wonderland event downtown at Heritage Square Park.

“Basically, we’re just kicking off the holiday season,” said Jonathan Cook, who oversees the event management and production for the city of Waco. “The event is built around the large, 32-foot tree downtown. It’s a family friendly event for all ages and a good way for people to come and hang out downtown.”

Waco Wonderland is an event put on by the City of Waco Department of Parks and Recreation for people of all ages to get in the spirit of the holiday season. There will be food from 12 food trucks and the Mistletoe Market with 20 distinct vendors. There will also be a Ferris Wheel and a snow hill that attendees can ride down in a tube. Holiday-themed entertainment and music will be provided on a stage.

“I’m really excited to give our customers a chance to put a face to the name,” said Hunter Gorman, founder and owner of E2 Creative, one of the vendors at the Mistletoe Market. “We don’t have a retail store or a physical location for people to come and meet us, so I’m really excited to get out there and see the community and the people that order stuff from us all the time.”

Gorman graduated from Baylor in May. E2 Creative is a custom wood and metal work shop in Waco. E2 Creative will be selling some of its products and showcasing custom work. Gorman said the Mistletoe Market will be a cool, fun way to engage the community with the things E2 Creative is doing.

Cook said this event is a collaboration with the city of Waco, the downtown public improvement and the City Center of Waco. Cook’s department is in charge of management production, but it is a true community event where everyone works together, Cook said. A similar event took place in the past then fizzled out, but about five years ago the city realized that it needed a downtown event centered around the holidays, and then came the idea to create a weekend centered around the lighting of the Christmas tree. Now it is one of the largest events hosted in downtown Waco, Cook said.

“I’m personally most excited for the snow tube, because in the past years we have had an ice rink,” Cook said. “I’m a kid at heart, though, and I’m looking forward to going down the hill.”

A $5 wristband will allow unlimited rides on the Ferris Wheel, access to the snow tube hill, train rides and visits to the petting zoo. Downtown carriage rides are $5 per ride and not included in the wristband price. A full schedule for these events can be found on the Waco Wonderland website, as well as a schedule of the holiday entertainment stage.

“We call it food, fun and cheer because it’s a good way to showcase downtown Waco,” Cook said.

At 6:45 p.m. Friday, the tree will be lit. The tree lighting ceremony will be followed by a fireworks show over downtown Waco. The holiday parade will kick off at 10 a.m. Saturday along Austin Avenue, beginning at 14th Street and ending at Heritage Square. Santa will also be available for photos in a wooden Santa house from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday and then from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday Dec. 10 and Dec. 17.

“We would love to see a ton of Baylor kids out there,” Gorman said. “It’s an awesome event and a great time for everyone in between kid and adult. We would love the support.”