For an outsider looking in to Kilgore’s annual derrick lighting ceremony, it’s an ideal slice of Americana, an image lifted from a Norman Rockwell painting, a moment that can’t be found anywhere else.
Greg Schroeder came to Kilgore for the Reel East Texas Film Festival, and it took little time for the singer, songwriter (and RETFF award-winning actor) to find the heart of the community downtown.
“Man, I loved every minute of this whole weekend,” Schroeder said, watching the hubbub of ‘A Very Derrick Christmas’ after enjoying it firsthand earlier Saturday evening. “I grew up in a small town in Texas, and it’s amazing to see what you guys have done with this. It’s great to see this outside of the bigger cities.
“One of the things that is so brilliant about it, everyone feels welcome to be here. You feel like you’re supposed to here. The hospitality that you receive and the enthusiasm that you receive, it’s community.”
That was at the forefront Nov. 16, community, as thousands of Kilgore residents and visitors descended once again on the Main Street District.
From afternoon into evening under clear skies, children and adults sampled food, merchandise and a variety of activities amid visits with Santa, trips down “Snowzilla” and more with the still-dark stars waiting atop the derricks of the World’s Richest Acre.
On street corners throughout the downtown core, many people paused for photos with Charlie Walker’s ‘12 Days of Christmas’ decorations, on display this holiday season through Mingle & Jingle (Nov. 30), the annual Kilgore Christmas Parade (Dec. 3), Christmas Under the Stars (Dec. 14) and more on tap.
About 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Kilgore Historical Preservation Foundation’s emcee, Dave Huber, was poised for a 10-second countdown after Kilgore Mayor Ronnie Spradlin introduced the year’s honor switch-throwers, Evelyn and Lloyd Bolding.
“This couple have been a foundation of Kilgore since I was a little kid,” Spradlin told the crowd gathered at the intersection of Main Street and Kilgore. “They’ve done many things that people don’t know about,” such as Lloyd taking the initiative to have restroom facilities built on Commerce Street and Evelyn spending a Mother’s Day hard at work painting the old Shell sign.
“They recently worked together diligently to get a historical marker for the Danville community that was the foundation of Kilgore. There’s dozens of things that I don’t know about. They’re definitely one of Kilgore’s stars and they’re part of the foundation that makes it such a wonderful city.”
As Huber and the crowd reached “One!” the Boldings moved the wooden switch to the ‘On’ position and, carefully coordinated, rows of derrick stars glowed in sequence thanks to KHPF volunteers’ efforts.
Meredeth Brown, spearheading the event’s volunteer committee with KHPF, Kilgore Chamber of Commerce, the City of Kilgore and many others, was pleased with the success of the expanded event, which included more vendors, more food options, more of everything to bring people in.
“We want people to come and celebrate with us,” she said. “We want people from Kilgore to keep those memories, to want to keep those derricks,” and there’s no better way than celebrating the community’s heritage together while kicking off the holidays.
“You have to make the connection for them, to make these Christmas memories.”