By Judith Roberts
Ruston’s annual Holiday Open House and Kickoff to Christmas was full of song and cheer Thursday night as hundreds of community members gathered to hear holiday carols and watch the Railroad Park Christmas tree light up and shop extended hours in the downtown area.
This Christmas event is always special to bring the community together, said Amy Stegall, Main Street director and community coordinator, especially this year after the tragic stabbing attack at Tech earlier this week.
“The Kickoff to Christmas is the tradition we look forward to each year that really brings us into the spirit of the holiday season,” Stegall said. “This year it’s a little sweeter and a little more special because of the hope of Christmas, that we can get through such a hard week.”
The Ruston Elementary fifth grade choir and Cedar Creek third grade choir sang Christmas carols, and cast members from Ruston Community Theatre’s “Sanders Family Christmas” also performed songs from the play, which ended earlier this week.
Tami Alexander, who was part of the “Sanders Family Christmas” cast, said she loved one last performance with the rest of the cast.
“We love that Kickoff to Christmas opens the season is a personal, heartfelt way,” Alexander said. “It’s always fun for RCT cast members to perform something outside of a show, just so we can be all together. It’s the best way to kickstart the season.”
Jennifer Carter, music teacher for Ruston Elementary, said the students were extremely excited to perform for their community.
“We were thrilled to be invited to sing at such a fun holiday celebration in downtown Ruston,” Carter said. “It’s a great experience for our fifth graders, and a special way to kick off the holiday season.”
Harper Pilgreen, a fifth grader at RES, is no stranger to performances, as she is also in RCT’s upcoming “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” but she said performing with her classmates and to the community was a wonderful way to start the holiday season.
“I like singing with my school and representing it,” Pilgreen said. “I felt kind of overwhelmed at first, but I really liked it.”
Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker had a special guest helping him flip the switch to light up Railroad Park’s large Christmas tree – veteran Sammy Maddox, who is 104 years old.
“Every year we try to find someone special to light the tree,” Walker said. “And I think we have somebody super special tonight. We just had Veterans Day last week, honoring our veterans. Tonight we have Sammy Maddox, 104 years old. It’s because of people like him that we can be here tonight.”
Stegall echoed Walker’s sentiments.
“It’s just special to have an incredible person who represents the great things about our country and the freedoms that we have here with us tonight,” she said. “It teaches us through the generations how important that is. Having him in juxtaposition with these kids is just a really important part of what we do here. That’s why it’s important for them to see him and that he could be here with us tonight and help us in this special way.”
For those who missed the lighting, the holiday celebrations continue throughout the season. For more information about events in Ruston, visit https://www.rustonlincoln.com/events/0/0/November-2023.