For 26 years, Sights and Sounds has marked the beginning of the Christmas season in San Marcos, offering an environment to set the mood for fun, laughter and warmth from being surrounded by loved ones.
The festival is a four-night event, providing a carnival, Bethlehem scene and other holiday treats for the residents of San Marcos and Hays County.
This long-standing tradition has not been without hiccups along the way, however.
Last year it was closed for two nights because of rain. The weather not only cut the event short but also lessened the amount of funds that could be used for this year’s festivities.
Brian Olson, president of Sights and Sounds, said this would be a regrouping year for the program.
Even with the tight budget, Olson said more sponsorship from local businesses and a chance at a new attendance record will help build it back up.
“We’ve had to buckle down, but I think the attendance record will be even higher than last year,” Olson said. “It’ll be a combination of the usual crowd and others who were disappointed about missing out last year.”
Along with the anticipated rise in admission revenue, Olson said almost 500 runners are signed up for the Sights and Sounds 5K. Because all the proceeds go to Sights and Sounds it will provide the financial boost the program is looking for.
Even with the focused push to build up Sights and Sounds, it is also giving other programs and nonprofits a chance to fundraise for their own endeavors.
The San Marcos Education Foundation runs the Christmas Tree Display, where librarians from each school are encouraged to decorate a tree as they please.
Visitors are encouraged to vote on their favorite tree or school by placing tokens in the buckets nearby. The tokens are then turned into funds that are put into the respective school’s library.
“The trees are an open canvas. So, we get to see the thought and creativity of each school,” said San Marcos, director of the education foundation. “Last year was our first to try this out. It brought in a lot of funds for the schools, and that was when we didn’t get to utilize all four nights.”
Along with facilitating local organizations with fundraising opportunities, this event has become a lasting part of San Marcos culture.
Families and students alike mingle to welcome in the holidays, each making new memories and recalling old ones.
“It’s a nice place to take a date or just hang out with friends,” said Randall Ondrusek, accounting senior. “Either way you’ll have a lot of fun. The Bethlehem place is always fun with all the live animals, and you have got to hit up the hot chocolate.”
Olson, who was involved long before becoming the head director, made plenty of memories while volunteering.
“I got stuck with the cotton candy booth, and I would be covered with the blue and pink fluff the whole night,” Olson said. “I’d go home and still find cotton candy behind me.”
Guerrero remembered the original ice rink from when he was a boy. It was a linoleum square with Pam sprayed all over it. The “skaters” then slid around in their socks and sprayed more Pam to keep the slick ice feel.
The four-night festival now has a carnival, live music and countless vendor and activity stations.
While providing all the new experiences, Sights and Sounds has kept true to its traditions and family fun atmosphere.
“After you get your ticket and tokens, you have to get a traditional, warm biscuit,” Guerrero said. “Then enjoy the music the schools put on, and maybe spin around the 75 foot tree. All of those
traditions will help you see what Sights and Sounds has been for 26 years. Everything else is just the star on top of the tree.”