Almost two weeks before Thanksgiving and with many still trying to finish off Halloween leftovers, hundreds of people gathered Saturday in downtown Kilgore to usher in the holiday season during the city’s 33rd annual “A Very Derrick Christmas” celebration.

Jill McCartney, president and CEO of the Kilgore Area Chamber of Commerce, said the event is special because it draws so many visitors to downtown Kilgore and kicks off Christmas in East Texas.

“It lets people know what we have downtown,” said McCartney. “All of the unique businesses that we have have their storefronts lit up and are open for the public.”

Every Whiteley, 4, and other children had their photos taken as they visited with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Whiteley said she asked the jolly elf to bring her a remote-controlled unicorn for Christmas.

Others were entertained by local musicians and dance groups as they visited the many vendor booths and shops in the downtown area to get a jump on their holiday season gift-buying.

For the second year in a row and with the help of his grandchildren, Darryl Gillcoat, a longtime member of the Kilgore Historical Preservation Foundation, flipped the switch to light the more than 20 derricks that make up the downtown skyline with Christmas lights.

Spectators then enjoyed a brief performance under the lights by the world-famous Kilgore College Rangerettes.

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