Derrick lighting poised to kick-off holidays

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The word “unique” is usually tacked on incorrectly.

When it comes to the lighting of downtown’s star-topped derricks, however, the word works.

“It’s uniquely Kilgore,” says Meredeth Brown.

Towering above the World’s Richest Acre, the derricks beckon visitors to the heart of Kilgore throughout the year, especially at Christmas when they’re lit throughout the season – starting with Kilgore Historical Preservation Foundation’s annual kick-off to ‘A Very Derrick Christmas.’

Brown helped with the event last year and was recruited to run it in 2018 with a group of volunteers from throughout the community.

Come the evening of Nov. 15, “We get to celebrate the upcoming Christmas season but also our heritage,” Brown said, “where we came from, how we became who we are as a community. The derricks are about remembering our past.”

This year’s derrick lighting ceremony runs 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. that Thursday night downtown, with an array of live entertainment scheduled alongside games, holiday vendors and, in coordination with Kilgore Chamber of Commerce, the return of the towering ‘Snowzilla’ inflatable slide.

“There’ll be children’s activities that are free,” Brown said, and “Santa’s going to start us off at 5:15 p.m. to open up the ceremony. Santa will also be taking pictures and talking to kids.”

Sharing a theme this year with the chamber’s Christmas parade – “All Aboard the Star Express” – the lighting event’s footprint is slightly-different for 2018, aimed at giving visitors the best possible view of the densest cluster of KHPF’s memorial derricks.

“The stage is going to be at the corner of Main and Kilgore so you can face the derricks when they’re lit,” Brown noted, stretched diagonally across the intersection with the star-topped structures in the background above the World’s Richest Acre.”

Under the current plans, the free-to-ride Snowzilla slide will be raised on the short stretch of Main Street between North Kilgore Street and Commerce. The year’s vendors will be located primarily on North Kilgore Street; more kid-friendly booths will be on Commerce Street near the Acre.

“There’s lot of vendors,” Brown said, including concessions and merchants to help kick-start holiday shopping.

This year, the derricks will be lit by Kenny Mobbs, named Kilgore Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Citizen of the Year in October. They’ll spark to life slightly-later than in past years, with Mobbs flipping the ceremonial switch at 7 p.m. after the bulk of the evening’s entertainment, coordinated by Kilgore College’s Angela Aulds.

On Tuesday, the event planners held auditions for the year’s Master of Ceremonies, hosting tryouts in the Van Cliburn Auditorium. Look for the reveal in an upcoming issue of the News Herald.

The year’s lineup of performances – beginning at 6 p.m. on the Main stage – features the Kilgore High School Co-Ed Dance Class, In-Step Dance Center, the Rev. Harry Caldwell, KHS Hi-Steppers, Sabine Singing Sensations, KC Industry Dance Company, KHS Choir and the Kilgore College Rangeretts.

Sponsors for the free event, Kilgore’s holiday kick-off, include Conterra, Republic Services, Citizens National Bank, Reel East Texas Film Festival and Energy Weldfab.

Anything that’s on the World’s Richest Acre will be free, from Kilgore Public Library’s storytime to crafts and other activities. Carriage rides will also be available for guests who want to enjoy a tour of downtown Kilgore.

Vendor spots are still available for the event: those interested should contact Lisa Morgan at the Kilgore Chamber of Commerce 903-984-5022.

For more information, follow the News Herald and search Facebook for “A Very Derrick Christmas.”

Days before the lighting ceremony, Reel East Texas Film Festival will host a free screening of “The Polar Express” at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 12, in the Texan Theater. (see inset)

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