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Christmas festivities return to downtown San Antonio, delighting thousands

From the Ford Holiday River Parade, to the HEB Christmas Tree Lighting at Travis Park, spectators were eager to catch a glimpse of each dazzling event.

SAN ANTONIO — Downtown San Antonio came alive Friday with the return of Christmas festivities.

From the Ford Holiday River Parade, to the HEB Christmas Tree Lighting at Travis Park, spectators were eager to catch a glimpse of each dazzling event.

KENS 5 caught up with families in the heart of the city on this exciting occasion.

"This is our first [river parade] down here. We've only lived here for a couple of years," said River Parade attendee, Brent Cooper, who brought family from Kansas to the River Walk Friday. "I think it's very clear people are anxious to get back out in public and enjoy the festivities."

The 40th Annual Ford Holiday River Parade, canceled last year due to COVID-19, made its triumphant return Friday.

"I can't wait to see all the people and all the boats on the river," said Hannah Hill, visiting San Antonio from Kansas. "Especially with the vaccine and everything, hopefully everybody can return back to normal as much as possible so we can all enjoy different events."

The theme this year: "40 years of magic". Each custom float illuminated the River Walk, delighting first-timers.

Just blocks away from the Christmas celebration on the river, HEB's Christmas Tree Lighting attracted hundreds to Travis Park.

The Concolor Fir, brought to San Antonio from Northern Michigan, stands 50 feet tall. It's decorated with dozens of colorful, handmade ornaments and 10,000 white lights.

"The ornaments are huge!" said Kamron Shafer, who attended the tree lighting with his family.

"I think the star is almost as big as me!" noted Layla Thompson, who also joined her family for the event.

"The ornaments are the size of my head!" said Layla's brother, Jean-Paul.

Layla and Jean-Paul's mother, Gabrielle, says she was delighted to hear about Friday night's celebration - and had to take the kids to catch a glimpse of the giant tree.

"I told them that it's a 50-foot tree. We've always seen the one in New York and we're like there's one in our town, so why not come see it!" she said.

This is the 37th year for the HEB tree lighting at the park.

"I just like people! Spending time with people I love," said Joshua Fiore, who came to the celebration with friends. "It's lovely. Wonderful. It's really nice!"

Free gift bags, live entertainment and an appearance from Santa keep the event growing each year.

"The ice skating, the little goodie bags they gave, all the music, it's nice!" said attendee, Summer Robertson, who joined friends for the occasion.

But the best part, families told us, is the fellowship and the fun.

"Spending time with my family," said Kaitlyn Shafer, who loved the Santa Claus she received in her HEB goodie bag.

"After the year everyone's had, to be able to gather here and be outside...being able to be around other people, I know it's helped me and hopefully it helps a lot of other people, too," said Layla and Jean-Paul's father, Paul Thompson.

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