A dim evening is lit by thousands of twinkling Christmas lights, the aroma of fresh baked goods tickles your nose and snowflakes dance in the air.
San Marcos’ annual Sights and Sounds of Christmas opened Nov. 29 and runs through Dec. 9, wooing the community with its holiday cheer and relaxing nature. However, behind the scenes, hundreds of volunteers can be found scurrying about and working hard to bring the event to life.
Originally a small Christmas festival on the San Marcos courthouse lawn in 1987, the event has grown into one of San Marcos’ largest events. While it was first hosted by the city, it is now managed by a nonprofit organization. Today, Sights and Sounds of Christmas, headed by a board of directors, is a charity organization that raises money for local nonprofits.
Catherine Marler, secretary and volunteer coordinator of Sights and Sounds, has attended the event for seven years and said she has loved to watch it grow from behind the scenes. The festival has expanded from a 4-day event to an 8-day event and hosts hundreds of community and campus volunteers.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for university students to get to know community members who they otherwise wouldn’t get to meet,” Marler said.
Jeep Wenston, recreation administration junior, is a volunteer for the event and said she believes it is a perfect doorway for students and community members to work together and relieve possible tension between the two groups.
“There are a lot of college students that are invested in the community and events like this are a great way for us to show up and show that support,” Wenston said.
Marler said she has witnessed negative perceptions of both university students and community members. She said it is easy to see the city and the university as two separate entities, but is glad this event provides an opportunity to merge the two worlds together.
Gena Hardison, microbiology senior, volunteers at the check-in booth and said she was pleasantly surprised to witness the variety of people who attend the event.
“It’s refreshing to come to an event where you run into so many people you know,” Hardison said. “I was just checking people in and I saw so many teachers and students when I thought I wasn’t going to see anybody I knew at all.”
The festival entrance fee is free for children and $5 for adults over the age of 12. Marler said she knows the holiday season can be tough on anyone’s wallet and the organization wanted to make it inexpensive fun for any age.
The season of giving sets the perfect stage for the community and students to work together to help local nonprofit organizations raise money. From photos with Santa, or the carnival, to visiting a recreation of the town of Bethlehem, the festival has a little bit of everything for everyone.
“It’s a great way to kick off the holiday season,” Marler said. “No matter your age, race, or gender, there’s something for everyone.”