Lone Star Lights
Lone Star Lights
A magical world of lights in our own backyard? Even Disney has nothing on this! The Carolina Creek Christian Camp has chosen to create the 17- acre Lone Star Lights, an astounding sound and light show that embraces the Reason for the Season. Even the might of Social Media can't do it justice. You really must live the experience to understand it.
It is so inspiring that I will be offering tours out to the site in the Joye Mobile all of the weekends they will be open as well as the entire eight days from December 15 through the 22. I would love to have you join us for a cozy, comfortable and relaxed drive out to Riverside. Check out our website to sign up.
For those who choose to make the drive out to the tiny town of Riverside, northeast of Houston, you will get a chance to experience magic. It is a journey through all the concepts of Christianity: an immersive and interactive, hands-on celebration of Christmas through the use of lights. This is a brief moment in time, a few days in December, and the lights and the show will be gone. Like life, and Christmas, now is the time to capture this amazing experience.
A friend and I drove out to the park at the insistence of Sharee Brabits, a lovely, gracious retired airline hostess who is now a PR person for Lone Star Lights. We had expected the usual inflated Santas or cutout cardboards of the nativity. Not So! The park was astounding, a truly breathtaking experience for both of us.
Because of the expected crowds, we parked fairly far off-site but were promptly loaded into golf carts and driven to the park entrance by assistants who ranged in age from 18 to 80. The staff, both those who drove the carts and those who manned each station, were cheerful, smiling, and helpful, even in the cold and dark. Management types who judge businesses always ask if it is a “They” or “We” company. Do the employees consider themselves a loyal part of the business? Do the owners respect and care about the staff? At Lone Star Lights, it’s evident the personnel, whose input is expected at next-day morning debriefings, are an integral part of the company. Who knew a job like this could make you happy?
We entered the park at a giant awesome Texas Flag Christmas ornament covered in red, white and blue lights. A welcoming cadre of staff offered maps of the site and pointed out places to see. In the dark, the maps were critical to an understanding of the layout. There are, according to the map, seven “immersive thematic zones”: Welcome area, Lone Star Ranch, Gingerbread Square, Arctic Adventure, Reason for the Season, Fractal Forest, O Little Town and Winter Wonderland. Each one is based around a story of Christmas.
Walking in on a broad asphalt walkway (all the paths are stumble-free and paved), we began at the Lone Star Ranch on our left. Several food trucks are stationed along the path, including, much to my delight, my beloved student Valerie’s Tap Truck with hot cider and hot cocoa. Of course, we had to stop and indulge in a hot beverage. Farther along, who can resist a fried, sugar-crusted Funnel Cake? At least we split it between us!
The General Store, usually used as a dining hall, has been transformed into Lone Star Ranch. Guests can take a seat on the porch rocking chairs and enjoy the musical offerings of local talent Brandon Michael or the lovely acapella Christmas carols sung by our own Sam Houston State University vocal performance majors.
Inside, a dozen or more craft vendors had set up booths that offered the usual street fair items: food, quilts, T-shirts, jewelry, and hand-made ornate wood pieces. In keeping with the community focus of Lone Star Lights, they only invited local artists who make their own items. Aside from the million lights and figures, everything else is sourced locally.
Across from the General Store stands the awe-inspiring 45-foot Christmas tree made entirely of lights. Beyond that, a Cathedral-like wall of lights surrounds an immense star suspended in the center. At the heart of the park is a walk-through nativity scene. The lovely larger-than-life figures are placed along a lighted asphalt path with plenty of space for thoughtful meditation and quiet prayers.
The center of the park is dedicated to the children. Tucked away under the trees are eight horses, saddled and ready to ride. Children were already mounting and being led around the corral by local cowboys. The stable in Ginger Bread Square holds a life-sized talking reindeer who can interact with guests!
Across the walkway, an entire snow mountain offers sledding and a field of snow for fun family snow fights. Adjacent is a petting zoo with sheep and goats (who will be happy to eat your jacket if you aren’t careful), as well as donkeys and, surprisingly enough, Australian wallabies.
Animal snacks, creatively served in edible ice cream cone cups, are available for purchase to keep the goats from snacking on your clothes. Nearby, staff will also help you put marshmallows on sticks to make S’mores over toasty warm open fire pits.
From here on, I can’t vouch for the authenticity of my cabin locations. Like one of the little kids, I was stumbling along, mouth agape, behind Sharee, our guide, as she pointed out location after location, cabin after cabin, activity after activity. Here is my feeble attempt to capture the elusive goings-on of the park.
Passing into the brilliant red and white lights of Gingerbread Square, (I think) we found Santa’s Cabin with Jamie Saucier as Santa. Pictures are available and will be emailed to you. This Santa is proud to keep a collection of entertaining letters given to him by children over the years. The Toymakers Craft shop has beads and cutout crafts for children to make ornaments. The minimal cost goes to pay for supplies. Almost everything in the park is free and there are few lines.
Other cabins, including the Prismatic Coffeeshop, house more music and hot beverages. Among them are my friend Elizabeth Florer’s Cat Café and her gorgeous silken sari wraps. Out on the porch of yet another cabin, Joy, a wool spinner from our own Sam Houston Memorial Museum, will cheerfully share her knowledge and teach you to spin wool into thread either on her spinning wheel or with a drop spindle. Inside, (or nearby, anyway) there are movies and a Kaleidoscope stage where local dance groups perform.
Of course, there is the requisite tempting smell of kettle corn as we head through the rainbow arches of light to reach the Artic Adventures. This area is for the teens and the older would-be teens. For an incredibly low price of only $5, adventuresome folks can enjoy a zip-line adventure. After being harnessed in and given safety instructions, you, too, can fly through the air on the zipline above the carpet of blue lights with blasts of artic air shooting up from below. You can also dare to face the ropes course and the Glacier Express Escape Room. Being of the elderly variety, we didn’t make it over there.
At the far end of the 17 acres is the Fractal Forest. Fractals, by the way, are patterns that repeat themselves infinitely in both directions, growing increasingly larger as exact replicas, as well as smaller with the same details. They are represented by the lights that glow in the igloos, as well as the butterflies, dragon flies, and star bursts along the paths. Mountain landscapes edge the sides of a lagoon and reflect their lights on the still waters.
Of course, there is a fully staffed Medical Building and a comfort station for nursing mothers. Strollers, wheelchairs, and wagons are available for use by customers. A staff of security personnel patrol the grounds throughout the evening.
In addition to all of this, Lone Star Lights also offers a luxurious gourmet experience at their Dinner Theater. I will be including this in some of our tours so check to see which ones include the Dinner Theater. The A.D. Players perform “It’s a Wonderful Life, the Radio Show,” while the guests enjoy a three-course dinner. On the menu is:
Starter: Garden Salad
Appetizer: Baked Potato Soup with a roasted potato parmesan crisp.
Entrée: Filet Mignon Or Baked Salmon with Lemon and Dill
Vegan option: Butternut Squash Ravioli
Sides: Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes & Haricot Green Beans with julienne red bell peppers
During intermission, dessert is served:
A Molten Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Sauce Or a Fresh Fruit Cup
As we left the park, zipping along back to our car in the cold night air (you do need to dress warmly on the golf carts), my friend and I agreed that we had never, ever experienced such a truly overwhelming light show. For their first year, the park has produced an amazingly successful production. The owners and the staff are right to be proud of their efforts. In really it is just a jaw-dropping “WOW!” It is something that you must experience for yourself.