The weather was crisp, the streets were full, and people were ready for Wonderland of Lights to kickoff Wednesday for its 31st year. Once again, the 1901 Historical Harrison County Courthouse emanated a festive aura, having been ensconced in hundreds of thousands of twinkle lights, as, well as larger-than-life toy soldiers and trees.
Residents snapped their selfies, burst out into spontaneous caroling and took advantage of the myriad activities the festival offers. Excellent performances were once again given by the First United Methodist Church Day School singers and the Marshall High School Mavettes. Many attendees hopped into downtown shops and eateries to enjoy some holiday treats and pick up some stocking stuffers.
The first few days of the monthlong festival have seemed to go off without a hitch, drawing large, engaged crowded to downtown. Saturday's Wassail Walk was well attended by both locals and out-of-towners as well as the Christmas Arts & Crafts Market at the Marshall Visual Art Center. These events drew people downtown during the nationally recognized Small Business Saturday, which aims to promote shopping at small, independent retailers.
We are so gratified to see so many coming out to enjoy the glittering courthouse and all of downtown dressed up in its holiday best.
We sincerely hope the streets continue to be filled with people, as that's the only way the festival will continue on.
Wonderland is now an institution in Marshall, as synonymous with the city as anything else we can think of. The city is known far and wide as the Christmas lights town, but the festival is by no means guaranteed. The event has only lasted as long as it has (a good long time by all accounts) because the town supports it. And more than the sponsors and the organizers, who do a wonderful job, topping themselves year after year. The town, the residents support the festival. They come out, they invite their family and friends to spend a weekend here and enjoy the happening downtown. They spread the word. They share photos online, tag friends across the state. They make a concerted effort to let others know about the wonder in Marshall during the most wonderful time of year.
And without such support there's no way Wonderland can make it another 30 years. The festival has had its up years and its down years, but it has survived for so long because Marshall wants it to and is willing to work to make that happen. We hope residents remember they are the ones who will keep Wonderland alive. And we hope it lives much longer than just the next 30 years.