To kickstart the annual Christmas on the Chisholm Trail festival, a large crowd gathered to witness the inaugural Belton Tree Lighting on Friday in front of the Bell County Historic Courthouse. In an effort to get the community in the holiday spirit, Grand Avenue provided a large screen for guests to view the Christmas classic, “Elf.”

Food trucks offered dinner and drinks as those in attendance enthusiastically awaited the tree lighting. Succeeding the lighting of the tree, Johnny Bohlin & The Fair-Weather Winds presented those standing along the outskirts of the Bell County Historic Courthouse tunes of the holiday season.

The City of Belton purchased the tree, and Director of Parks and Recreation Matt Bates expressed his gratitude for the Bell County Historic Courthouse staff for allowing them to do this event and place the tree on their property. Bates was enthusiastic about the tree lighting’s addition to the Christmas on the Chisholm Trail tradition.

“This is a really neat experience because we’re able to capitalize on the big day and turn it into two; it really kind of gets people energized, the tree lighting, things like that,” Bates said. “For years now, we’ve been growing the Christmas event, and this is just one more step of us turning it into essentially a two-day event with the tree lighting and obviously a movie and some music to follow, so we’re really excited.”

Bates said Parks and Recreation worked with Belton Convention and Visitors Bureau to brainstorm different ways of attracting people to downtown Belton, and the tree lighting, music and movie “all went hand-in-hand.” Thus, the Belton Tree Lighting event was born.

In addition to sparking the holiday spirit, Bates said the Belton Tree Lighting provided the city with the opportunity to get a jump start on Saturday’s Christmas on the Chisholm Trail.

“We have the streets closed down, marked all the booth spots, we’re prepping the area as the movie’s going on, we’re working to make sure that tomorrow’s going to be as perfect as we go,” Bates said.

When it came time to light the tree, the crowd was led in a countdown by Belton Mayor Marian Grayson.

“Well, we saved Christmas, so now we’re going to light the Christmas tree,” Belton Mayor Marian Grayson said.

As the countdown reached zero and the tree lights were switched on, the crowd erupted in applause as they were serenaded to the sound of Johnny Bohlin & The Fair-Weather Wind’s playing of “O Christmas Tree” through brass instruments.