Reindeer, sledding hills, Santa and penguins -- it’s beginning to look a lot like Hometown Holidays at City Hall.The annual celebration kicks off from 5-9 p.m. Friday with all of the favorites, plus a couple of new features, like horse-drawn carriage rides and performances before the 2:30 p.m. parade Saturday in downtown Mansfield.“It’s fun, it really kind of speaks to Christmas,” said city spokesperson Belinda Willis. “Seeing Santa is a big deal. We used to have Santa arrive, but the line to see him kept growing so we decided to have Santa in place so we could get more kids in to see him. That remains the most popular thing.”Besides free visits with the Jolly Old Elf and his missus, there will be a pair of snow hills for sledding -- one for the tots and one for the bigger elves -- plus a live reindeer, penguins from the Dallas Zoo, lighting the city Christmas tree, a fireworks show, bounce houses, food vendors, screening of “Arthur Christmas” at the Mansfield Activities Center, arts and crafts, four children’s choirs and a video game truck.“We’re trying to target all ages,” said Angie Henley, coordinator of special events and cultural arts for the city. “The game truck is for older kids, bounce house for little kids, and one (bounce house) for bigger ones. The big kids love the snow hill, the little ones like the smaller one.”And everyone loves the penguins, which take the stage at City Hall at 7:30 p.m.“People are really into the penguins,” Henley said. “It seems like the adults are as into as the children. If you want to see an actual penguin up close and personal, be at the stage at 7:30. They walk around and get you pretty close to them.”Henley is betting that the horse and carriage rides, which are new this year, will also be popular. “All ages love horses,” she said. “And kids don’t like to admit it, but they like the reindeer.”The city will light the huge tree behind City Hall at 6:30 p.m., followed by a fireworks show that “will be a little different so keep your eyes open,” Henley said.Everything is free, except the food vendors and the sledding hill, which will cost $3 for the big hill and $2 for the smaller one, Henley said.Saturday’s parade with approximately 50 entries will be preceded by performances by cheerleaders, dance studios and karate students in front of the Mansfield Area Chamber of Commerce, 114 N. Main St. Food vendors will also hit the streets for the parade, which will be presided over by its grand marshal, the Mansfield Citizens Fire Academy Alumni Association.The city expects about 3,500 to attend between Friday, and even more for the parade on Satuday, unless winter weather gets in the way.“It doesn’t look good, especially for anything outdoors,” said Daniel Huckaby, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth. “A cold front moves through Wednesday and a strong arctic front moves through on Thursday.”Temperatures are expected start at 28 degrees on Friday and top out near freezing, but it’s the predicted precipitation on Thursday night that worries Huckaby, who is concerned about possible ice on roadways.That’s Andrew Binz’s concern, too. “We will be monitoring the weather throughout the week,” said Binz, the city’s recreation superintendent. “At this point, it’s too early to tell. We hope to make the call by Thursday afternoon. We’re dealing with the weather, there’s a lot of variations.”Any cancellations or delays will be posted on the city’s Facebook page and website, www.mansfield-tx.gov. Parade participants will be notified if the parade is cancelled, Binz said.
Amanda Rogers, 817-473-4451 Twitter: @AmandaRogersNM