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Shenandoah welcomes holiday season with Lighting of the Angels

November 28, 2018

Braving the Tuesday night chill, almost 1,000 eager onlookers watched as Mayor Ritch Wheeler flipped the enormous switch outside of Shenandoah City Hall, lighting the 29 9-foot-tall angels floating around the city and officially beginning the holiday season.

“I believe this is what makes us a community,” Wheeler said. “The fact that we can do things like this and all come together as neighbors.”

Children and their parents alike celebrated the season with dinner, hot chocolate, Mr. and Mrs. Snowman, a snow slide, a petting zoo, camel rides, a balloon artist from Skeeter and Friends, a magic show and “snowball races,” in giant plastic bubbles. For parents, the opportunity to make another child’s holiday brighter came in the form of a toy box accepting donations for the Montgomery County Women’s Shelter.

Then, at long last, the pièce de résistance — Santa Claus arrived at the event in a firetruck escorted by the Shenandoah Police Department’s best, ready to hear wish lists for those on the nice list, the first of which were from 4-year-old Hadley Burleson.

“The lights,” Hadley said, when asked about her favorite part of the evening.

Now in its 21st year, the event has come a long way since it was hosted inside a tent in the city park where all of the attendants were fed a spaghetti dinner, Shenandoah Civic Club member Pam Sorich said. She moved to the city in 1996 and, by then, the small population of the city was looking for a way to celebrate Christmas together.

But, Sorich added, Shenandoah today is not the same as it was. With growing developments quickly filling up the remaining empty acreage, new families move in and out often, making it hard to really know anyone in the community unless they’re neighbors — since 2008, the population has risen by almost 1,000 to more than 2,900. The Lighting of the Angels and the city-wide Easter egg hunt present the perfect opportunity to get in tune with Shenandoah as a whole.

“It brings people together that don’t normally get to meet — the city’s growing,” Sorich said.

Planning an event on such a scale requires months of planning, Sorich said — the civic club normally begins meeting in the summer about what entertainment, food and attractions to include. In the past, the littlest attendees have had the opportunity to meet and take photos with Elsa and Anna from the Disney-Pixar movie “Frozen,” a woman on stilts and this year, Mr. and Mrs. Snowman.

But, for 6-year-old Michael Potler, photos taken with the popular characters, or even meeting Santa Claus, were low on his list of priorities.

“I think I’ve been on the ice slide three times,” Michael said. “We come here just to do it every year.”

Resident Jenny Booth brought her two toddlers to the event for the third year on Tuesday, one of the highlights of their holiday season.

“They don’t care for the animals yet because they’re little,” Booth said. “But they will.”

For Shenandoah, the event represents the beginning of the most magical time of the year — and growing together as a city.

“Nights like tonight are about loving your neighbors and loving you community,” Wheeler said.

mrincon@chron.com

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