By Forest Riggs
As the little sand bar island readies for the holidays, try and make a visit across the causeway to enjoy some real southern hospitality as this year’s celebration promises to be bigger and better. There’s something for everyone!
Shine a light
With all the dirty dishes from Thanksgiving feasts being washed and put away, it is time to break open the boxes marked “Christmas” and start readying for another December and a very Merry Christmas and holiday season. Seems like just a short time ago we were taking down trees, wrapping delicate seasonal items and thanking God it was over for another year.
With the cooler weather that has blown across the Island, locals are fast at work decorating and sprucing up things for a busy season.
Visitors and locals will know it ’tis the season as soon as the annual, multi-colored, tree of lights rises atop the Daily News building just this side of the causeway. The paper has proudly been serving the Galveston community for 175 years and for many years now, that glowing tree, seen from the causeway when coming onto the island, has served as a welcoming beacon for eager visitors coming to explore the holidays, Galveston style!
Moody Gardens has already trimmed their skyline with a zillion lights and opened their annual, fantastic Festival of Lights, complete with this year’s Ice Land Rainforest Holiday where you can freeze you’re a** off and have a grand time doing it! This year, the gardens offer “eight holiday attractions—one venue.” Festivities there will run through January 7.
This year the Island is really trying hard to bring joy and happiness to those visiting and especially those that suffered during and after Hurricane Harvey. City Council member, and great friend and supporter of the LGBTQ community, Terrilyn Tarlton-Shannon, has asked that all merchants and structures along Broadway, try and decorate with lights and festive symbols. Tarlton-Shannon and other board members feel the oak-lined avenue should present a happy and welcoming entrance onto the Island. Therefore, things will look a little different on the Island this holiday season.
For the first time in many years, the city will be adding new holiday adornments at various locations. The historic Strand District is slated for a costly holiday makeover, which has already started. Monies collected from the hotel/motel tax is being used to add to and revamp Sangerfest Park at 2300 Strand. Already a yearly holiday tradition, the decorations, music and perfect photo-op site will be shining bright this season with many newly added components. Weather permitting, a stroll around Sangerfest Park and cup of hot chocolate, combined with some twinkling lights and singers, is magical.
Also cashing in on the plans to shine bright this year, an 18-foot, highly decorated Christmas tree will be positioned near the Texas Heroes Monument at 25th and Broadway. This year the pointing, bronze lady will have company throughout the season: Topping the tree will be a three-foot, golden star!
Another great spot to enjoy fantastic lighting and get in the groove is the beautifully landscaped grounds of The Hotel Galvez and Spa. Crews have been busy for days now, stringing lights around the numerous palms and in the fronds. Colored lights run every way possible on the expansive grounds and all together make a great spot to take some special holiday photographs.
There are sights all over the Island as December comes on and folks start decorating. A drive through most of the neighborhoods will reflect the enthusiasm (and sometimes competition) of the season. Many streets leading to 25th St. (Rosenberg Avenue), such as Sealy, Ball, Winnie and Church, to name a few, are filled with lighted, tree line sidewalks. It is not Central Park in New York, but a slow horse-drawn carriage ride along these and other glimmering streets can take anyone far, far from their troubles, especially if you are lucky enough to be snuggled-up to someone special!
Make the yuletide gay
All in all, things are shaping up to be a really festive and gay holiday season this year.
The bars and clubs are starting to transform into their annual holiday decorated dens of iniquity. It is fun to visit the local LGBTQ businesses and see the wonderful jobs they have done with decorating for the season. Drag shows, of which there are a zillion this time of year, take on a new, festive look and visitors are likely to hear “Santa Baby” more than once as they travel from bar to bar on a holiday pub crawl. If you visit, be sure catch a show at 23rd Street Station, Robert’s Lafitte and Rumors Beach Bar.
Remembering Lyda Ann
On another note, the weekend of November 17 and 18 gave locals and visitors a unique opportunity to own a piece of Island and Texas history as the family of beloved former Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas held an estate sale at Thomas’ home on 37th Street.
The immaculately restored Victorian was designed by early Island architect Nicholas Clayton (a fine Irishman) who, in addition to many stately Island homes, also designed the Sacred Heart Cathedral and several iconic structures dotting the Strand area and neighborhoods.
Lyda Ann, granddaughter of early Galveston developer and philanthropist Ike Kempner, spent her life collecting and maintaining items from her family’s rich history in Texas, as well things from her long years for public service and celebrity. Many walked away from the sale with a very special item or items from the vast collection. Prices for a piece of the historic collection ranged from very affordable to “high-end” and wished-for.
Thomas’ daughter, Eliza Quigley, said it was hard to sell her mother’s things; however, the family had kept what they wanted and felt it right to share the collection with people who loved the former Mayor and her Texas-sized personality.
Forest Riggs, a resident of Galveston is no stranger to the adventures of life. A former educator and business owner, he enjoys Island life and all that comes with it. He says he is a “raconteur with a quixotic, gypsy spirit.” He has written for several newspapers and magazines as well as other writing pursuits, including a novel and collection of short stories.