The Waco Wonderland parade, scheduled for Saturday morning — the second day of the annual downtown Waco Wonderland event — was set to be scratched until a local church stepped in to ensure its continuance.

The parade sponsor for the fifth-annual event dropped out at the last moment, leaving organizers believing they wouldn’t be able to pull off the attraction, said Jonathan Cook, the city of Waco’s community promotions specialist. The news was hard, as last year’s parade was canceled due to bad weather conditions, he said.

“People love a parade in Waco,” he said. “They are always popular.”

When city leaders made the announcement to the city’s parks and recreation board, Pastor Ruben Andrade Jr., who sits on the board, stepped up, Cook said.

Andrade’s church, Family of Faith Worship Center, agreed to sponsor the event. While church leaders got a late start in organizing the event, Andrade said, they already have 35 parade entries and expect to get at least 50 total.

Andrade said he and his church put a big emphasis on community and helping ensure the parade continued is just another way they could contribute to their hometown. Community members and local organizations and businesses still have time to register for the downtown parade that will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Parade applications forms are due by 5 p.m. Wednesday and registration is free. Those interested in entering the parade can contact Andrade at 753-3188 or

Waco Wonderland brings back Santa Claus, food trucks, a Ferris wheel and live entertainment for the fifth annual, three-day event at Heritage Square.

“Saturday is going to be one heck of a day,” Cook said.

Not only is Waco Wonderland occurring, but the event falls on “First Friday,” when downtown businesses offer specials, extended hours and more on the first Friday of every month. Adding to the excitement downtown, Cook said, holiday festivities also begin throughout the community as residents start counting down days till the end of the year, including the second-annual Christmas at the Magnolia Silos. The Saturday event will host free holiday activities for visitors of all ages during the day, and a concert that evening.

Activities kick off at 5 p.m. Friday for Waco Wonderland as guests can browse more than 30 vendors, a dozen food trucks, or to take a picture with Santa. Admission is free, but wristbands cost $5 to ride the 65-foot Ferris wheel or to slide down the snow tube hill. Downtown carriage rides will also be offered for $5 per rider.

About 80,000 pounds of ice is ready, with more on standby, as organizers bring back the three-lane snow hill for the second year in a row, Cook said. Adults and children can take a ride down the 30-foot hill, but must be at least 42 inches tall, he said.

“We learned last year the more the ice gets compacted the faster people seem to go,” Cook said. “It’s fun. People love it.”

The tree-lighting ceremony begins at 6:45 p.m. Friday followed by a fireworks show.

Gates close at 10 p.m. as organizers prepare for the 8 a.m. Wonderland Run by Communities in Schools of the Heart of Texas. Races will start and finish at Austin Avenue and South Third Street in front of Waco City Hall.

Vendors, food, trucks and entertainment will continue from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, with the snow tube hill opening from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.

A free showing of the movie “Elf” will be on an inflatable big screen in front of city hall at 7 p.m. Activities resume from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Cook said they expect at least 15,000 people to attend the festivities over the three days based on previous years’ attendances.

When Waco Wonderland first started, the idea was to create something to bring people downtown during the holidays, Cook said. Now, the event is one of many in the area during the holidays as downtown continues to grow and expand, he said.

“The event just keeps growing,” he said. “At five years I look at my own son, who’s a 6-year-old now, it’s become a part of our holiday and Christmas tradition.”

Other holiday events in downtown Waco this weekend include:

A Dr Pepper Christmas

A Dr Pepper Christmas, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday at the Dr Pepper Museum and Free Enterprise Institute, 300 S. Fifth St. $12 for adults, $6 for children. The 11th-annual family event features a visit by Santa Claus, children’s crafts, live music, a photo booth, food and drink.

For more information, go to

Christmas on the Brazos

The Historic Waco Foundation’s Christmas on the Brazos runs two weekends, starting Friday through Sunday, and then Dec. 8-10. Each of the house museums will be decorated to fit this year’s “Golden Christmas” theme, in honor of the 50th anniversary of HWF. Candlelight tours, entertainment, cookies and an appearance from Santa will be among the festivities.

For more information, go to

The Backyard Winterfest

The first — planned to be annual — Backyard Bar Stage and Grill music festival, dubbed Winterfest, will feature three days of local, regional and national musical acts. Artists include the Holly Tucker Band, Reckless Kelly, and William Clark Green and Josh Abbott on stage together. There are only 1,000 three-day passes available. A three-day pass is $60 and individual day tickets are $25.

For more information, go to

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