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Waco Gears Up for Holiday on the Square

Dec. 2, 2009

A Waco Christmas tradition will be without one of its key components this year, but organizers are working to fill the void for the city's annual Christmas kickoff, Saturday's "Holiday on the Square." KWBU's Derek Smith has more.

Lights, music, and a little exercise for a good cause have long been hallmarks of Holiday on the Square, a partnership between the city, the Arthritis Foundation, Keep Waco Beautiful, and the Jaycees, with each organization having an event unique to them. But one staple will be missing this year when the festivities take place on Saturday evening. The parade, a 50-plus year tradition is on hiatus.

The Jaycees disbanded their local chapter due to funding issues, leaving the other holiday organizers scrambling. That was Rachel Martinez, director of the Arthritis Foundation of Waco, who will be putting on the 20th edition of the Jingle Bell Run, one of their major fundraisers. Another organizer, Keep Waco Beautiful, sponsors the tree lighting at Heritage Square. Director Sherry Street is confident the parade will be back next year, and could have been this year, if there had been more advance warning.

But the organizations have tried to make up for it in little ways. The Jingle Bell Run will kick things off as it always does, but instead of going next to the parade, the tree lighting ceremony will be the next event after the 5k run/walk. Without a parade, people have scrambled and come up with a number of additional activities for both children and adults.

They're hoping that these events help people enjoy a full evening even without the parade. And this year, attendees can indeed parade around on their own in a train, says Martinez.

The 20th anniversary Jingle Bell Run starts at 5 Saturday evening, with registration at four; the tree lighting takes place at 8. And amidst the holiday fun, its a serious time for the two local non-profits. Says Martinez, money raised this weekend helps the Arthritis Foundation serve sufferers in a number of ways.

For Sherry Street, the tree lighting brings recognition to Keep Waco Beautiful's goal of doing just that, and helps people become aware of their many projects. One example is a Christmas-themed program, taking place at the Heart o' Texas Fairgrounds January 3rd.

Again, Holiday on the Square takes place this Saturday evening at both Heritage Square and Indian Spring Park, with activities beginning at 5 and running into the night. For KWBU news, I'm Derek Smith.

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