Once again, the heart of downtown Fort Worth goes all out for the holidays.
A general lack of snow has never diminished the holiday atmosphere of Fort Worth’s downtown. The heart of the city goes all out for Christmas, and welcomes those from surrounding areas to celebrate annual milestones, develop shared memories, and strengthen bonds of communal spirit. For years, people have associated the holiday season in Fort Worth with the XTO Parade of Lights. This signature event certainly captures much of what makes the season special, from the buoyant atmosphere, to the palpable excitement, to the merry twinkle of lights and festive presence of floats and performers.
Downtown Fort Worth’s holiday revelry hardly begins and ends with the parade, however. Sundance Square, which oversees the parade, has gone above and beyond with additional features and events to make Cowtown Christmases truly special. In fact, if you can forgive the absence of ice, snow, and reindeer, you’d be hard-pressed to find a comparable Christmas wonderland — short of the North Pole itself.
Deck the Boughs
If you love Christmas, you probably wish it lasted longer. It can sometimes seem as if the holiday has barely arrived, and you’re left with shredded wrapping paper, empty stockings, platters of Christmas cookie crumbs, and the empty realization that Christmas has once again come and gone. Thanks to Sundance Square, Fort Worth gets more mileage out of its holiday. Christmas begins on November 14th at 9AM, when local dignitaries, Sundance Square representatives, and members of Green Mountain Energy arrive to raise the city’s official tree.
Of course, this is no simple tree farm specimen. In a city with character as outsized as Fort Worth, only a special variety of behemoth will do. This year, the chosen tree is a 57-foot-tall blue spruce, harvested in Michigan and trucked all the way to Fort Worth. Sundance Square’s process for selecting and obtaining the tree is suitably adventurous.
“We have a tree broker who travels to Michigan and goes to look at trees,” says Tracy Gilmour, marketing director for Sundance Square. “They’re so large, we have to buy them off private property. He always looks for trees between 55 and 60 feet tall, of the right shape and symmetry. Once a tree is found, the tree broker approaches the homeowners and asks if they’ll sell it.”
If “tree broker” has suddenly become your dream job, you’re not alone. There’s something particularly satisfying in the notion of driving through far-flung forests, searching for the perfect tree to realize a city’s Christmas dreams. If you wonder how a homeowner could let such a magnificent tree go, consider this: oftentimes such massive specimens get cut down no matter what, at the homeowner’s personal cost.
“These kinds of trees grow aggressively and quickly,” says Tracy. “There are times when they dwarf a house, or are growing too close, and they will have to get taken out. It works out for the homeowner if they get paid for the tree. It’s a win-win.”
It’s also impossible to imagine a better afterlife for a tree than as the object of appreciation for an entire city.
“It’s hard to see a beautiful tree get cut down,” continues Tracy. “But it then comes to Texas and gets enjoyed by tens of thousands of people.”
The tree will rest in unadorned majesty only briefly, as the efforts to decorate and illuminate the behemoth get started well before the lighting ceremony. On November 19th, festivities begin at 4pm to herald the tree lighting and arrival of a certain special dignitary. Attendees to the ceremony can enjoy holiday carols, numerous photo ops, and, of course, the main event:
“It takes all week to decorate the tree,” says Tracy. “Lights get strung on Tuesday, ornaments hung on Wednesday. On Thursday and Friday, the Santa set and finishing touches go up. Saturday night at 6pm, the lights get turned on.”
A Certain Holiday Celebrity
Santa Claus – or his authorized representatives – will certainly make the rounds of many locations throughout the holiday season. Once again, however, his premier showcase in Fort Worth will occur in the heart of downtown. The lighting of the tree serves as the crowning adornment of Santa’s Fort Worth headquarters: Sundance Square.
The jolly old elf will be available to hear Christmas wishes and pose for photos from November 19th through December 23rd. The hours for his daily appearance can change, so make sure to visit www.sundancesquare.com for specifics. As anyone who has experienced the Sundance Square Santa knows, this particular representative of Christmas shines as a true embodiment of the season. Not only that, but children – and adults – who have only visited Santa in the confines of a shopping mall would do well to experience the shared joy and charm of this public iteration.
“We wanted to be able to have a community Santa,” says Tracy. “We’ve always had the downtown Christmas tree, and the Santa becomes a natural extension when you have that great décor. We want Sundance Square to be a natural destination for families. Our décor and Santa hours have dramatically expanded, which was done by design. We want to have a Santa that is accessible.”
The Sundance Square Santa is indeed available to all. Children of all ages – including those otherwise considered “adults” – are welcome to visit Saint Nick and get their picture taken. Pets are also welcome, and photos require only a $10 donation to benefit the Fort Worth Sister Cities’ International Scholarship Fund.
Sundance Square Events
While the tree, décor, and Santa Claus provide a vibrant centerpiece, the Sundance Square Christmas experience hardly ends there. Bass Performance Hall hosts a series of notable holiday performances, each of which could inspire a new family tradition. This year’s selection includes Cirque Dreams Holidaze and, a perennial favorite in Fort Worth, The Nutcracker. Post-Christmas, you can jazz up your New Year’s Eve with A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald.
Throughout the Christmas season, lunchtime in Sundance Square gets made merry thanks to the caroling of various choir groups. Young performers from Greater Fort Worth area schools will showcase their talents on the Sundance Square Plaza Stage throughout the weekday lunch hours. For dates and times for these performances, in addition to those at Bass Performance Hall, visit www.sundancesquare.com.
Of course, no trip to Sundance Square is complete without a meal at one of the many fabulous restaurants, or time spent browsing among the shops. A new addition, just in time for the holidays, complements the other seasonal offerings perfectly. Houston St. Toy Company arrives to put a sparkle in the eyes of children, and give parents a independent source for educational, unique, and interesting toys. Sundance Square’s support of this venture, along with everything else it offers to make Christmas special, showcases the depth of its dedication to Fort Worth.
“We’ve been evolving for over 30 years,” says Tracy. “Over the last three years, Sundance Square has gone through giant leaps. Celebrating the holidays here has always been a great tradition, and this will be another great year with family and friends.”