The Denton Holiday Lighting Festival has a different plan for this year, and officials announced hours for the virtual festival on Friday and Saturday, which includes two locations for a drive-thru “safe” visit with Santa and toy drive, and a new yard decoration and Christmas lights contest.

Organizers said the pandemic made hosting a crowded fest in downtown Denton too dangerous — especially with flu season compounding risks with the uptick in coronavirus infections in Denton County.

You can still get the music, family fun and festive feeling this year. Families can enjoy one of two drive-thru events.

Snow globe

The snow globe was a popular activity during the 2019 Denton Holiday Lighting Festival on the Square. This year’s pandemic-altered event will bring families the chance to take a selfie with Santa waving from inside a wintry snow globe. 

On Friday

From 2-6 p.m. Friday, families can go to First Baptist Church of Denton parking lot, at 1100 Malone St., to take a selfie with Santa, who’ll be inside a snow globe, and drop off new toys for the Elves Shelves Toy Drive (or donate virtually). There are 500 free Santa goody bags available while supplies last, which doesn’t include a photo. All photo registrations cost $5, plus a processing fee on Eventbrite. You can upgrade to Santa’s VIP Bag for $25 — the add-on includes candy, crafts, light-up toy, the festival’s 2020 ornament, A Very Merry Denton CD, a holiday T-shirt printed by Pan Ector Industries, and a shorter waiting time for Santa. Reservations are required online at

During the event, you can have a volunteer use your phone to get a photo with Santa in his winter wonderland globe. Just be ready to show your ticket and keep the drive-thru line moving.

On Saturday

From 1-5 p.m. on Saturday, families can go to the Wells Fargo Bank parking lot at Austin and Mulberry streets downtown, where they can take drive-thru selfies with Santa as he waves from the snow globe and make a donation to Elves Shelves Toy Drive. All photo registrations cost $5, plus a processing fee. You can upgrade to Santa’s VIP Bag for $25. Reservations are required online at

Saturday also features the musical portion of the annual event — visit the festival’s Facebook page for live performances from 6-7 p.m. And from 7-8 p.m., KUZU-FM (92.9), Denton’s community radio station, will spin A Very Merry Denton, the local album featuring some of the city’s favorite musicians and the music they performed at the Denton Holiday Lighting Festival Spectacular several years ago.

Plug in those lights

The festival brings back the Christmas lights and decorations contest in Light Up Denton, as well as a map to the area’s best displays. Starting Friday, the festival will vote for homes nominated in three categories:

  • The Griswold Award: This prize will go to the residence that is bathed in lights. And more lights. 
  • Santa’s Favorite: Best display of an organized theme.
  • The North Pole Award: The best use of non-lighting decorations, such as wreaths, garlands, ribbons and bows.

And there is a special category, the Whoville Honor, for streets or neighborhoods decorated in any holiday theme.

LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877 and via Twitter at @LBreedingDRC.

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