By Tyler Bui and Bridget Sjoberg | Staff Writer and News Editor, Video by Grace Smith | Broadcast Reporter
Jingle bells weren’t the only things ringing at this year’s Christmas on 5th. But even an accidental fire alarm didn’t deter the holiday spirit at the event, which brought between 5,000 and 8,000 members of the Baylor and Waco communities to attend.
Activities at the 54th annual event included a petting zoo, bowling, pony rides, hay rides, food trucks, photos with Santa and carnival booths. Attendees were also able to enjoy performances from the Baylor Religious Hour Choir and the modern languages and cultures carolers.
Although most activities played out typically throughout the evening, a fire alarm, which went off on accident around 7:50 p.m., caused an evacuation of the Bill Daniel Student Center.
Piedmont, Okla., senior Payton Strubhar, a member of Baylor Union Board who was helping out in the SUB at the time of the evacuation, described what occurred when the alarm sounded.
“At first the alarm lights started flashing and everyone was really confused, and then you could hear a voice telling everyone to evacuate,” Strubhar said. “Everyone was reluctant to leave at first because they were in the middle of writing letters to Santa, so the SUB members went around to confirm that everyone really did have to leave. Once the room cleared, we checked that hall to make sure everyone was out and then the police officers on duty went around to check as well.”
One of the most anticipated events of the night, the Kappa Omega Tau Christmas Tree Lighting, still took place at 8:15 p.m. in the Burleson Quadrangle.
Tanner Vickers, associate director of student activities for campus programs at Baylor, said Christmas on 5th started in 1965 as just the tree – lighting ceremony. It has since grown into a multifaceted celebration on Baylor’s campus.
“The heart of the program is the lighting of the Christmas tree in Burleson Quadrangle, which is a tradition started by Kappa Omega Tau in 1965,” Vickers said. “Fifty-four years later, KOT still manages this portion of the program, ensuring it grows each year. Decades later, activities and attractions were added to 5th Street. Each year, the event becomes more popular and new elements are added.”
Leawood, Kan., junior Mitchell Paul, Christmas on 5th chair for Kappa Omega Tau, said the event is a great way to kick off Christmas celebrations with the Baylor and Waco communities.
“Quite simply, Christmas on 5th is one big Baylor party where everyone [can] make a lasting Baylor memory with their friends,” Paul said. “It’s a way Baylor can bring the Christmas spirit and the gospel to the Baylor students as well as to the greater Waco community.”
Vickers said the purpose of Christmas on 5th is to reflect and enjoy each other’s company at the end of the semester.
“First and foremost, it’s an opportunity to slow down at the end of the year and reflect on the beginning of the Advent season, when we, as a faith body, wait expectantly for the celebration of the nativity of Christ, and the redemptive meaning of his arrival in history and in our lives,” Vickers said. “Christmas on 5th Street is also a time for Baylor students, faculty, staff and their families to simply have fun together as the university’s semester ends.”
Vickers said this tradition is important to remind us of Baylor’s Christian values and community.
“Christmas on 5th Street provides a time for Baylor to gather together and remember all Jesus has done for us,” Vickers said. “As with many Baylor traditions, it’s also important for us to simply spend time with one another, have fun and enjoy campus. We must, from time to time, enjoy one another’s company as a community, and remind each other who we are, what we stand for, and that, before anything else, people are Baylor University.”
Vickers said this years’ celebration was larger than it has been in recent years because it offered more attractions and activities for attendees.
“We have taken feedback from patrons and offered more attractions on Fountain Mall, in Burleson Quadrangle and every level of the SUB,” Vickers said. “In addition to event staples like horse drawn carriages, a petting zoo and pictures with Santa, we are excited to have offered new attractions like a hay ride that picks up in front of Moody Library on Third Street, a fake snowball fight zone, ornament decorating on the first floor of the SUB, $1 jingle bowling in the SUB and s’more roasting.”