ETX community embraces Nativity Scene, focuses on weekend fest - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

ETX community embraces Nativity Scene, focuses on weekend festival


A controversial East Texas Nativity Scene is back up, and the committee in charge of getting it there isn't letting anyone get them down.

Despite the threat of many lawsuits, Henderson County and Keep Athens Beautiful are focusing their time and energy on this weekend's festival on the square.

All of the Christmas decorations on the courthouse lawn are back, and all the regulars are there... from the dancing elves to the Nativity scene, which has been the focus of multiple lawsuit threats in the past year.

But despite it all, Henderson County has proven itself to be a place of resilience. They haven't ceased to stand up for what they believe.

"Our county is one that is a close knit county. We believe that we're in compliance with the law with our decorations. It's something that the whole county enjoys... coming to Athens and shopping and coming to the square," says Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders.

Santa's house is one of the decorations on the square that has received some upgrades, including his new mailbox. The Nativity scene now has its own star, provided by KAB, and there are two wooden reindeer on the square. The reindeer were built by a man who lives in Athens.

"When you sit down here one night, as you're making sure all of the lights are on, and you see all of the families coming up with their babies... showing them the bright lights and the couples taking pictures of each other by the toy soldiers... you go, 'Yes! This is why we do it and we have such a good time doing it,'" says Keep Athens Beautiful Executive Director Carol Morton.

Now, Carol's focus is Saturday's festival. It includes arts and crafts, live music, a holiday market, tree lighting ceremony, petting zoo and parade.

"It's really going to be a fun evening from four o'clock on, here on the square," says Carol.

If you ask the county, they've achieved their goal of making the square they're so proud of a place for all to enjoy.

"Because of the coverage that we've had, we've had a lot of people who have come from as far away as Oklahoma and other states. [They've come] here just to get a picture or be involved in the decorations and enjoying it this time if year and that's what we want," says Judge Sanders.

He adds how proud he is of the Keep Athens Beautiful committee... not just for decorating during Christmas, but all year long.

Below is a list of events taking place on the Henderson County Square on Saturday:

Holiday on the Square presented by Light Up Athens

4pm- Holiday market opens, arts and crafts and face painting

4:30pm- Puppet show

5-5:45pm- Storyteller

6pm- Tree lighting ceremony, featuring Santa Claus

There will be live music all evening.

Christmas Around the Square presented by the City of Athens

6:30pm- Christmas Parade

8pm- After parade party with food, games, bounce house and petting zoo

8:30pm- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Movie in Ginger's Park

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