Highlands families welcome Santa

Rotary, Horizons and Precinct 3 host hundreds for a Festive Evening with Santa

By David Taylor
Managing Editor

Christmas celebrations in Highlands got an early December start with the annual Highlands Christmas Tree Lighting and Meet Santa event, and it’s a new venue for the last two years.

“This all changed when our Highlands Chamber president Jessica fell ill,” said Tonya Kostka, director of the San Jacinto Community Center in Highlands for Precinct 3. “It was last minute, and we said we would take it over and help out.”

It was difficult to replicate what Jessica was doing since her family did most of the setup and organizing, Kostka said.

“And we also had to think of it logically. We’re no longer out in the elements and the children aren’t too close to the road,” she said.

The one downfall, according to Kostka, is the children don’t get to see Santa ride in on the fire truck.

“Otherwise, I think it’s gone really well the last two years,” she said.

Kostka pointed out that they hosted over 300 kids last year and planned for even more this year. The event began at 5 p.m. and by 6 p.m., they had already seen over 200 kids come through the center.

Denise Smith, president of the Highlands Rotary Club, said the club has been participating in the event for years.

“They were doing this long before I was ever in the club, serving the hot chocolate to the children,” she said.

Kostka explained that area organizations choose part of the event to sponsor either financially or present to serve or both.

“The Rotary Club has done the hot chocolate for years, and Highlands Horizons provided the cookies and candy canes, the chamber of commerce is here volunteering, and the Seniors Helping Seniors group here at the San Jacinto Community Center paid for the pizza and treats,” Kostka said.

The Christmas trees are still spread throughout the community center and are on view for the public through the holidays. Anyone can put up a tree or sponsor a blowup at no cost.

“We like it this way because our trees are out of the elements and there’s no maintenance to it,” Smith said.

She explained that there were times the wind would blow out the lights or the ornaments off the tree and they would have to go out there often to rewire things.

“This is one of our favorite events for the year,” Smith said.

The club had about a dozen members present to help serve the hot chocolate, the pizza, and other goodies.