Celebrating the winter holidays at San Jacinto Plaza was a family tradition for Ben Fyffe when he was a kid.
Now the managing director of the city’s Cultural Affairs and Recreation, Fyffe is part of the team that implements the longtime holiday tradition for the borderland community.
“I always chuckle to myself thinking of how blown away I would have been to have had the type of experience we coordinate today,” Fyffe said. “I love seeing families spending time together, the lines of people waiting to take selfies with displays and hear the laughter when you pass by the skating rink.”
Fyffe will be among the 50,000 people expected to take part in the Scherr Legate Celebration of Lights Parade and the Tree Lighting Ceremony at San Jacinto Plaza in Downtown on Saturday, Nov. 20. The festivities kick off the El Paso WinterFest, which runs through Jan. 2 at the plaza and the Arts District.
“WinterFest represents the transformation of a beautiful, but conventional, holiday display in San Jacinto Plaza into an amplified, top-notch festival with the types of holiday amenities and experiences a city of El Paso’s size deserves,” Fyffe said.
WinterFest comprises lights displays, ice-skating, pop-up cafes, holiday movies at the Plaza Theatre, streetcar rides, music, entertainment and vendors. Holiday displays and family entertainment are also slated at city museums, libraries, the airport and zoo.
Fyffe said the city’s vaccination rate being among the best in the nation, city leaders felt it was safe to program what’s dubbed “the coolest festival in the region” to full capacity pre-pandemic levels. WinterFest costs about $1 million to produce and is built in to participating departments’ budgets and supplemented by grants and sponsorships, he said.
More than 400,000 people are expected to enjoy the festival this season, Fyffe said.
The events kick off with music at 4:30 p.m. at San Jacinto Plaza. Master of ceremonies Stephanie Valle of KVIA Channel 7 will lead the program starting at 5:30 p.m., with the parade at 6 p.m.
Now in its 26th year, the Celebration of Lights Parade will feature more than 40 entries led by Santa Claus and a float by parade sponsor Scherr Legate PLLC. The parade will start at Texas and Campbell streets and wrap around Downtown.
“Sponsoring the Celebration of Lights allows us to share the love and joy of the holidays with our loved ones, friends, families and our beautiful community,” Scherr Legate Senior Partner Sam Legate said in a press release.
Eastsider MaryAnn Sanchez recalls attending the lighting ceremony most every year since she was a child.
“I believe I’ve only missed three plus last year because of the pandemic,” the 28-year-old said. “I’ve been coming here since I was about 5 or 6 with my grandma.”
Sanchez said her grandmother passed away a few years ago but looks forward to taking her 2-year-old son Armando to this year’s events.
“It’s a tradition I want to keep going with him,” she said. “It’s grown so much. I hope it keeps growing and getting better every year.”
Scherr Legate Celebration of Lights Parade
What: 26th annual parade by the city of El Paso sponsored by Sherr Legate, featuring more than 40 entries including floats and vehicles decked out in colorful lights. The one-mile parade is led by Santa Claus.
When: 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20
Where: Parade starts at Texas and Campbell streets, south to Overland; west to El Paso, north to San Antonio and heads east to N. Mesa by San Jacinto Plaza; north to Main Street, east to Stanton; south to Mills and west to Campbell by City Hall.
Holiday Lighting Ceremony
When: Entertainment begins 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20; ceremony follows at 5:30 p.m.
Where: San Jacinto Plaza, 114 W. Mills in Downtown
What: Master of ceremonies is KVIA Channel 7’s Stephanie Valle. Fort Bliss First Armored Division Band and St. Anthony’s Seminary Franciscan Choir will perform. Presentation of colors by the El Paso Police Department color guard. National Anthem by Catarina Gutierrez and Pledge of Allegiance by El Paso Candlelighter Amy Macias. Holiday wishes by Sam Legate, senior partner, Sherr Legate PLLC; and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Williams, 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss. Mayor Oscar Leeser will flip the switch to light the plaza alongside Sam Legate and El Paso Candlelighters Amy Macias and Justin Almanza.
On TV: KVIA will air the event starting at 4:30 p.m. on the El Paso-Las Cruces CW.
RELATED HOLIDAY EVENTS
El Paso Museum of Art
1 Arts Festival Plaza
- *Must register in advance
Family Day: Christmas Sweater Clay Ornaments: Noon- 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20
- *Bucket Hat Painting Workshop: Noon- 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11
- *Scarf Painting Pattern Workshop: Noon-3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 18
El Paso Museum of History
510 N. Santa Fe
El Paso’s Homegrown: World War II Exhibit: Opening & Family Day: 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20
Merienda Talk: Latkes & Lights in Sunset Heights: 2-4 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 2
Las Posadas Family Day: 1-4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4
Merienda Talk: Holidays on the Border: 2-4 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 16
Winter Holidays Family Day: 1-4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 18
El Paso Public Libraries
Meet the Grinch Storytimes
4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 14: Judge Marquez Library, 610 N. Yarbrough
4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 15: Doris Van Doren Library, 551 Redd
4:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 17: Richard Burges Library, 9600 Dyer
Downtown Art & Farmers Market
Noon-8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20
Convention Center Plaza & Pedestrian Pathway
El Paso Zoo
Pictures with Santa, holiday crafts & seasonal animal enrichment
El Paso Zoo, 4100 E. Paisano
Santa: 10 a.m.-noon and 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11 & Sunday, Dec. 12
Regular zoo hours: 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday-Friday; 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
El Paso Parks & Recreation
Holiday Fiestas with live music and entertainment; food trucks; vendors
San Jacinto Plaza
114 W. Mills in Downtown
6-10 p.m. Friday - Sunday, Nov. 20 – Jan. 2
6-11 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 23; Thursday, Dec. 30; Friday, Dec. 31
Holiday Movies at the Plaza Theatre
Who: Presented by the El Paso Community Foundation Plaza Classic Film Festival and El Paso Live
What: Organists will perform on the Plaza Theatre’s original, restored Wyler Mighty Wurlitzer Pipe Organ before each movie.
Where: Plaza Theatre, 125 Pioneer Plaza
How much: Free
Sunday, Nov. 21
1 p.m.: The Nightmare Before Christmas
4 p.m.: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Sunday, Nov. 28
1 p.m.: A Christmas Story
4 p.m.: Home Alone
Sunday, Dec. 5
1 p.m.: Elf
4 p.m.: The Polar Express
Saturday, Dec. 18
2 p.m.: It’s a Wonderful Life
7 p.m.: Love Actually
Sunday, Dec. 26
1 p.m.: The Santa Clause
4 p.m.: Die Hard
Sunday, Jan. 2
1 p.m.: Frozen
Ice Skating & More
What: Presented by El Paso Live with the Texas Gas Service Warming Tent next to the rink
Where: Arts Festival Plaza between the Plaza Theatre and El Paso Museum of Art
When: Noon to midnight opening night, Saturday, Nov. 20. Regular hours: 4-9 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays; 4-11 p.m. Thursdays; 4 p.m.-midnight Fridays; noon to midnight Saturdays; noon-9 p.m. Sundays through Jan. 2.
What you should know: Sessions are 50 minutes.
How much: $8 to skate; $5 for 5 & under
Fiesta Fridays: Local musicians and bands 7-9 p.m. Nov. 26, Dec. 3, Dec. 10 and Dec. 17 on the deck by the El Paso Electric Holiday Tree.
Holiday Café: Produced by Delicious Mexican Eatery, will be open during ice-skating rink hours; with Berliner Freiheit serving up its German delicacies.
Vendor Market: Around the rink area each Saturday, featuring goods and products local artisans and crafters.