The long-anticipated Whistle Stop Christmas returns to Hulen Park on Monday with the annual lighting ceremony.
Texas Tradition Chorus will begin performing at 6:30 p.m., followed by the tree lighting at 7 p.m.
Cleburne Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Tara Janszen said Whistle Stop Christmas has become a wonderful experience for visitors who have strolled through Hulen Park, for the past 23 years, enjoying millions of Christmas lights and festivities.
“Bring your family and friends and come help us kick off Whistle Stop Christmas and being back at Hulen Park,” she said. “When people think of Whistle Stop, it is all of the experiences at Hulen Park, and all of the lights, that people think of. It’s what draws them into Whistle Stop.”
In 2018, the annual event downsized considerably and switched from Hulen Park to downtown’s Market Square pending a lawsuit against the city.
This year, however, over 3.5 million lights will be turned on and lit every night at Hulen Park, around the Johnson County Courthouse and Market Square through Dec. 31.
Janszen said Whistle Stop guests can also enjoy children’s train rides, vendors and a visit by Santa and Mrs. Claus.
For a complete schedule of events, call the Cleburne Chamber office at 817-645-2455 or visit https://www.whistlestopchristmas.com.
“I would like to say a special thank you to our sponsors who help make this possible, and to the volunteers who are physically doing the day-to-day work to get the park, courthouse and market square ready this holiday season,” Janszen said.
Whistle Stop’s presenting sponsor since 2008 is Members Credit Union and the co-event sponsors are Heritage Trails Nursing and Rehab, H-E-B Grocery store, Ridgeview Rehabilitation & Skilled Nursing and Trans Power Electric Inc.
Other sponsors include James Hardie Building Products, Joy McHargue State Farm Insurance, Sagentic Web Design, Dugger Electric, First Financial Bank, Pinnacle Bank, Citizens National Bank of Texas, Runnels Wrap, Wal-Mart DC, Independent Bank, Wing Stop, Grandview Bank, Parrish-Hare Electrical Supply and Hazlewood Barkley Foundation.
This year’s annual Downtown Christmas Association’s Festival of Lights Christmas parade begins at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 6.
The theme this year is “Christmas Movie Magic.”
The parade will begin at South Main and First streets, proceed to Third and Caddo, then head north to North Caddo and Brown. It will turn left and travel behind the Layland Museum, then head south on North Main to South Main and Westhill.
Entries will then return to the start.
The deadline to enter the parade is Monday with a $35 entry fee.
“We encourage everyone to get their applications in to us so that we can have a great parade again this year,” Janszen said.
Prizes will be presented for Creativity Award, Best Child’s Entry, Best Mounted Entry, Best Illuminated, Best Christmas Theme and Favorite Vehicle.
Food and Christmas vendors will be set up, and Santa and Mrs. Claus will be available for pictures after the parade.
Live entertainment is provided, as well as a chance to blow the train whistle on the historic 3417 steam engine.
Dressing up downtown
Once again, the foundation will be hosting the Business Decorating Contest. The contest is open to all businesses, organizations and churches (no residential homes) within the city limits of Cleburne.
Businesses can enter the contest, for free, until 5 p.m. Nov. 29 by calling the chamber at 817-645-2455.
Participation is open to all businesses, organizations, and churches — no residential homes — within the city limits of Cleburne, and is for exterior decorations only,
This does include decorations in windows that are visible from the exterior, however, judging will be done from outside the business only.
Judging criteria will include unique design, creative use of lights and decorations and overall presentation, and will be done during evening hours on an unannounced date between Dec. 2-5.
Participants should ensure that all lights and decorations are in place and activated for the judging periods.
Businesses may allow school groups or organizations to decorate for them. Entrants are fully responsible for gaining permission to decorate areas that belong to someone else.
Registration gives consent for photos of business exterior to be featured in local media, chamber social media outlets, chamber websites and/or published in the chamber newsletter.
Prizes will be awarded for first, second and third place.
Winners will be announced Dec. 6 after the Lighted Christmas Parade at Hulen Park. Contest participants are encouraged to be present, but it is not required. Winners will be notified by telephone and listed on the chamber Facebook page.