San Antonians have already started to “get their jingle on” in preparation for the holiday season, and Friday marked the beginning of many colorful and bright celebrations to come.

For many families, the day after Thanksgiving is not only a chance to enjoy some leftovers, but also an opportunity to experience the city’s holiday lighting festivities, including the famous Ford Holiday River Parade.

Thousands of children and adults as well as several elected officials went to downtown’s Alamo Plaza Friday afternoon to see the 55-foot White Fur H-E-B Christmas Tree light up with more than 10,000 red, white, and green lights and dozens of gold and silver ornaments.

The highly anticipated ceremony has become a citywide tradition, one that began in 1984. This year’s festivities included a visit from Santa Claus, who flipped the lighting switch, cookie decorating activities, arts and crafts, live music, pet adoptions, story time, and donation opportunities to local animal rescue organizations.

After the lighting ceremony, locals and tourists alike made their way to the Arneson River Theatre and the banks of the River Walk for the 35th annual Ford Holiday River Parade. More than than 30 festive floats passed through the river clad in decorations paying homage to this year’s theme of Tinsel & Merriment. This year’s Grand Marshal was Silver & Black Give Back, Spurs Sports & Entertainment’s nonprofit partner.

For the first time in the 35-year history of the Ford Holiday River Parade, the public was able to vote via text message for their favorite float in the parade. Voting took place from 6-9:45 p.m. Here are the results:

  • First place winning float: Soldier’s Holiday Homecoming sponsored by Live Greystar San Antonio.
    First place winning float: Soldier’s Holiday Homecoming sponsored by Live Greystar San Antonio.

    First place: Soldier’s Holiday Homecoming sponsored by Live Greystar San Antonio

  • Second place: O Tannenbaum! Sponsored by Beethoven Kinderchor
  • Third place: Light The Way sponsored by University of the Incarnate Word

“For 35 years, families in San Antonio and visitors from across the world have strolled down our famed River Walk to witness the sparkle and wonder of this holiday tradition,” Mayor Ivy Taylor stated in a news release. “But I also invite everyone to walk along the street level and see the more than 70 businesses that have decorated their store fronts and buildings as part of my ‘Light Up Downtown’ holiday contest.”

The Light Up Downtown holiday contest aims to create an illuminated view of the downtown skyline with major buildings throughout the city being lit up by holiday lights and displays. Smaller, street level buildings with decorated facades also are participating. The contest’s goal is to showcase the downtown area by creating a bright holiday experience for locals and visitors.

Participants will receive official recognition from the City and its partners. Contestants will be able to win prizes in several different categories such as “Best Use of Space” and “People’s Choice Award.”

For a full list of participants, click here. Visitors can vote for their favorite lighting display starting today at lightupdowntownsa.com.

For a list of future holiday activities that will occur throughout the city, check out the Rivard Report‘s holiday roundup below:

Get Your Jingle On: This Holiday Season’s Event Roundup

Rocío Guenther

Rocío Guenther worked as a bilingual reporter and editorial assistant for the Rivard Report from June 2016 to October 2017. She is originally from Guadalajara, Mexico and holds a bachelor's in English...