Fayette County

A light and festive mood

In crisp temperatures, surrounded by a festive, cheering crowd, Mayor Jim Newberry threw the switch Saturday night to light the 40-foot Christmas tree in front of Lexington's courthouses and kick off the city's holiday season.

Simultaneously, the city's three other community Christmas trees, each decorated with small colored lights — 40,000 lights in all — flashed to life in Triangle Park, Thoroughbred Park and in front of the Kentucky Utilities building.

More trees in Phoenix Park, Cheapside Park and on Richmond Road also shone brightly.

And for the first time in several years, trees in Triangle Park were decorated and became part of the celebration. The Triangle Foundation paid for the new lights in the park.

Newberry pointed out that all the lights are energy-efficient LEDs. The light-emitting diodes use only 2 or 3 watts of electricity, about half that of standard Christmas lights. And they will burn for thousands of hours.

Families with lots of children crowded downtown to watch the Christmas parade roll along Main Street before turning up North Limestone.

It was a happy, eclectic mixture of parade participants, from dancing snowmen, beauty queens and canines in Christmas sweaters to antique fire trucks, cheerleaders and belly dancers. The Blue Grass Youth Hockey Association turned out a slew of youngsters roller blading along the street.

And two dozen members of the Tates Creek Steppin' Titans entertained in front of the parade reviewing stand with a crisp, fast-paced routine.

Closing out the parade was radio personality Jack Pattie, who again played Santa Claus.

Parade organizer Renee Jackson fretted earlier in the afternoon that there would be no high school bands in the parade. Because the festivities fell on Thanksgiving weekend, many high school students are out of town.

"The band directors didn't want to make the kids come out," Jackson said. "I hope we don't catch any flak. But it's one of those things. We can't force people to be in the parade."

The parade moved quickly this year and once everyone reached the Courthouse Plaza, speechifying was held to a minimum.

Last year, the mayor apparently thought the program was a bit long for youngsters who had already been standing outside for more than a hour.

"The whole shootin' match should be over by about 7:30 p.m.," Jackson said.

Actually, the last notes of the audience sing-along We Wish You a Merry Christmas ended even earlier.

And the cold wasn't too much for some.

"This is like a warm summer day in Vermont," said Harold Hubbard, who grew up in that state and was visiting his children here.

And his daughter, Jennifer Hubbard-Sanchez, was drinking iced coffee at downtown's Dunkin' Donuts, just like her dad.

"I was born in a 5-foot snowstorm in Vermont," she said. "I love this weather."

The chilly temperatures didn't deter Sunserria U. Watson, either, from bringing part of her brood to the Christmas fun.

She was there Saturday night with two 5-year-olds and two 7-year-olds. The children sat politely in front of the brightly lit stage in the Courthouse Plaza, watching dancers from the Town & Village School of Dance do a Rockettes-style high kicking routine.

Watson has 25 children — three biological, 12 adopted and 10 foster — who range in age from three years to 40 years old. At home, she still cares for the four youngsters she brought to the parade, a grandchild and her 93-year-old uncle Theophilus Irvin Jr.

"He was the first black man to work for the Kentucky racehorse commission," she said.

At age 57, Watson says she never thinks about slowing down. Doing "fun things" like going to the Christmas parade and tromping around downtown at night keeps "my spirit young."