PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Pascagoula was filled with the Christmas spirit Friday night as thousands gathered to help ring in the Yuletide season.
For the first time ever, the city combined its two big holiday events - Downtown for the Holidays and the annual lighting of the Christmas tree, which had previously been held at Beach Park.
The night kicked off with the tree-lighting ceremony - an event that left the large crowd oohing and ahhing as as the 18-foot tree lit up the night. Even a train rolling through the area during the ceremony didn't take away from everyone's joy at seeing the tree and the performers who danced and sang around it.
"I just danced over there, and that was fun," said Whitney Matthews, a fourth grader at Eastlawn Elementary.
A long-time tradition in Pascagoula, the city held its Christmas parade afterward, with excited kids gathering on the side of the roads, eager to see Santa Claus pass by.
The fun then continued downtown, with a winter wonderland of artificial snow, where Mr. and Mrs. Claus met with children to hear their Christmas wish lists. Also included in the festivities were free carriage rides, vendors of all kind, dance and musical acts, and a performance by the Gulf Coast Symphony's Youth Orchestra. Capping off the night was a spectacular fireworks display.
And residents were definitely not disappointed. Holiday greetings, decor and costumes could be seen and heard throughout the evening as Pascagoula residents ran into old friends and made new ones.
"It's just great for all of us to come together and celebrate," said Hannah Northrop of Pascagoula.
Mayor Dane Maxwell said this year's holiday event seemed busier than in years past, with crowds packing the streets and filling the downtown area's local businesses.
"It's better than I expected it to be," said Maxwell. "One thing this does, it's a catalyst to a bigger and better next year."
Also spotted downtown during the event, people decked out in reindeer antlers and Christmas lights running the streets during the annual Run Run Rudolph 5K and Fun Run.
Mayor Maxwell said he looks forward to providing more entertainment events in Pascagoula, including a new entertainment district at Lighthouse Park.