It’s the most wonderful time of the year! With the kids looking forward to an extended break from school, college students returning home between semesters, the excitement of gift giving, and the promise of welcoming in a new year make December one of the most festive months each year. In addition to gathering with family and friends, there are tremendous offerings to brighten your holiday season throughout the month all around the area. With something for everyone, ‘tis the season to be in Cenla!
The award-winning holiday festival AlexWinterFête returns to the City of Alexandria December 8th through 11th, offering a free, fun-filled, family-friendly festival filled with the activities that have made the event a major attraction, including ice skating, Santa’s village and a fireworks display. This year’s live music offerings include performances by Gyth Rigdon, Chubby Carrier, Keith Frank & the Soileau Zydeco Band, Clay Cormier, Trini Triggs, Gerald Greunig, Mariah Hester, Shilo and more!
AlexWinterFête will open at 4:00pm the evening of Thursday, December 8th, with the traditional lighting of the city Christmas tree and Santa’s arrival in the Rapides Women’s & Children’s Hospital Santa’s Village at the Alexander Fulton Mini Park downtown on Third Street. Evening activities will wrap up at 9:00pm.
Activities resume at 5:00pm on Friday, December 9th, with retail, food, and a variety of vendors ready to assist guests with their holiday shopping. Activities will include ice skating on the CHRISTUS Cabrini Ice Rink, the Rapides Women & Children’s Hospital Santa’s Village, children’s activities, street performers, and live music on stage, with the festival running until 11:00pm.
On Saturday, December 10th, the Fête will host the annual Rapides Urgent Care Ugly Sweater 5K run. Vendors and other AlexWinterFête activities will get started at 10:00am. Saturday night’s activities will culminate with a spectacular fireworks show over the Red River at 9:00pm, with the last booths closing at midnight.
Don’t shop. Adopt! Make it an extra happy holiday for both your family and a deserving cat or dog this year at the Adopt a Fête Pet Event. The Alexandria Animal Shelter will host this holiday adoption event on from 10:00am to 2:00pm on Saturday at the corner of Johnson and Fourth Streets next to the Jolly Junction. If you’re not able to attend the event at AlexWinterFête and would still like to add a furry member to your family, the Shelter is open Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 8:00am to 2:30pm and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:00am to 2:30pm. Adoption fees include first set of vaccinations (including rabies), spay/neuter, general physical exam and basic testing. For more information, visit the Shelter online at www.coaas.org or @AlexandriaforAnimals on Facebook.
Activities wrap up on Sunday, December 11th, with a final chance to ice skate and the Alexandria Mardi Gras Association Christmas Parade. The parade will roll at 2:00pm, with ice skating available from 1:00pm to 2:00pm before the parade and from 4:00pm to 8:00pm following the parade.
For more information, visit the AlexWinterFête website at www.alexwinterfete.com.
Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Croc! Come see the Alexandria Zoo in a different light at the Holiday Light Safari December 9th-11th, 16th-18th, 21st-23rd, and 26th-28th! Create wonderful holiday memories with a casual stroll through the Zoo’s colorful environment sparkling with thousands of lights and whimsical lighted animal figures. Take a merry ride on the train to see even more lights and displays. Visit with Santa through December 23rd, and enjoy a cookie courtesy of Atwood’s Bakery (while supplies last). While you may spot a few night owls during Holiday Light Safari, most of the Zoo’s residents will be catching some zzz’s.
Holiday Light Safari is a separately-ticketed event. Admission for Adults and Teens (Ages 13+) is $10.00; Children (Ages 2-12) for $8.00. FOTAZ members (Ages 2+) enjoy a special Sunday Discounted admission on December 11th and 18th for just $6.00. FOTAZ card and photo ID are required. The zoo closes at 4:30pm (last admission 3:30pm) and re-opens as Holiday Light Safari at 5:30pm. FOTAZ Memberships and other Zoo Passes are not valid during Holiday Light Safari. In the event of inclement weather, the decision to cancel an evening of Holiday Light Safari will be announced via the Zoo’s Facebook page.
This year’s Alexandria Garden District Holiday Tour of Homes will take place on Sunday, December 11th from 3:00pm to 7:00pm and features five outstanding houses located in both the Garden District National Register District and the Alexandria Post-War Suburbs National Register Historic District. Each year, this festive tour showcases the history, architecture, and gracious living in Alexandria’s oldest neighborhoods.
Take a peek inside the “crowned jewels” of the historic district and enjoy light refreshments to make spirits bright, with caroling provided by the Bolton Conservatory Chorale! “This is an opportunity to showcase five of the fabulous homes in the Garden District,” says Garden District resident Annie Collins. “Each house is unique…[including] mid century modern and Greek revival homes and more on the tour this year.” Homes featured in this year’s self-guided tour include the homes of Lisa Downing Cecil at 2506 Jackson Street, Tim & Kim Beno at 3217 Parkway Drive, Dede & Cedrik Jefferson at 2500 Avenue A, Mary Beth Foster at 1772 Albert Street, and Matt & Allie Nowlin at 1906 Albert Street. “You drive to each home in any order you want to go, where the homeowners will meet you and people will be throughout the home to guide you,” Annie explains. “Each home will feature a little treat for visitors.”
Tickets are available for $25.00 through Eventbrite or at Southern Chic Boutique, located at 3200 Jackson Street in Alexandria. Maps will be available the day of the event at Bolton High School from 2:30pm to 5:30pm. You won’t want to miss enjoying the warm hospitality of your neighbors while connecting to Alexandria’s storied past in the spirit of the season at this delightful Cenla holiday tradition!
Holiday music always makes the season extra bright! Reprising the Chorale’s annual tradition, the Red River Chorale’s Lessons & Carols Christmas concert returns to St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in downtown Alexandria on Thursday, December 15th at 7:30pm. The complete Lessons and Carols performance features readings and an assortment of traditional and contemporary choral pieces.
Tickets for the concert are $15.00 for adults and $5.00 for students. This year’s concert is sponsored in part by a grant from RoyOMartin and administered by the Arts Council Of Central Louisiana. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (318) 484-4463 or visit www.redriverchorale.com.
The very next night, on Friday, December 16th at 7:00pm, Texas’ newest chamber music ensemble, New Texas Sinfonia, makes its Louisiana debut in the beautiful acoustic of St. James Episcopal Church. “Christmas in Cenla” will feature the music of the season, under the direction of artistic director, Weston Jennings. Some of the selections will include excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker”, “Winter” from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” suite, Grandjany’s “Aria in the Classic Style” for harp and string orchestra, and particularly appropriate for the season, Arcangelo Corelli’s “Christmas Concerto”.
Mr. Jennings is director of music and organist at First Presbyterian Church in Tyler, Texas where he oversees the music program and, in that capacity, he is the producer of the First Presbyterian Fine Arts Series. Additionally, Weston is the artistic director of the long established community chorus, Tyler Civic Chorale. New Texas Sinfonia is a professional chamber orchestra dedicated to providing the best orchestral and chamber music to communities throughout Texas alongside engaging educational outreach for all ages. St. James is pleased to welcome Mr. Jennings and the orchestra to Central Louisiana.
The Concert Series is the recipient of a generous grant from The McCormick-Smith Fund, Inc. so the Christmas in Cenla concert is free admission and open to the public. There will be a reception after the conclusion of the concert in the Church Parish Hall. St. James Episcopal Church is located at 1620 Murray Street at Bolton Avenue in Alexandria. For more information or questions, please telephone the Church office at (318) 445-9845. Join in for some beautiful Christmas music and afterwards for some sparkling Christmas cheer!
Take a drive through Cypress Bend Park Thursday through Sunday each week in December to view Louisiana’s most enchanting Christmas light display “Winter Wonderland”. Santa will be at Cypress Bend each Saturday of December spreading holiday cheer. Admission will be $5.00 per car and the lights will end Friday, December 23rd .
While you’re in town, make plans to attend Many’s annual Christmas Festival on December 11th, with a parade at 3:00pm on San Antonio Avenue, followed by the festival at 4:00pm at the fairgrounds, and culminating with fireworks at 6:30pm. Additional events taking place through the holiday season include bingo, concerts, art classes and much more! For a full schedule of events, visit www.ToledoBendLakeCountry.com or call the Sabine Parish Tourist and Recreation Commission at (318) 256-5880.
Ring in the New Year with the Louisiana History Museum’s Masquerade Ball on Saturday, December 31st at the beautiful historic Hotel Bentley. Don your favorite party attire, festive ball mask, and head to downtown Alexandria for an unforgettable evening. The festivities will kick off at 8:00pm and include live music by the Steve Wells Band, delicious appetizers, champagne, dancing, and lots of fun! A festive champagne toast at midnight to celebrate the New Year will round out the events, set to conclude at 1:00am on New Year’s Day.
Individual tickets for the Masquerade are $75.00 per person, or $150 per couple. To make your evening even more memorable, consider purchasing a Masquerade package, which start at $300 and include options like reserved table seating, pre-party dinner at the Diamond Grill or Bentley Room, and a private room at the Hotel Bentley for the evening. Proceeds from the Ball will benefit the Louisiana History Museum and its mission to collect, present, interpret, and promote understanding of the wealth of history associated with Alexandria, and all of Louisiana. Please RSVP by Saturday, December 17th by calling (318) 769-2216.
These are just a few of the great ways to celebrate the season here at home. From spending time with family and cherished friends and attending holiday services in our many houses of worship, to Christmas parades and festivals, truly ‘tis the season to be in Cenla! From all of us at Cenla Focus, thank you for your readership, support and friendship. We wish you happy holidays, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!