Christmas tree

Workers assemble the two-story tall Christmas tree that will grace the front of the Terrebonne Parish courthouse throughout the holiday season.

The countdown to Christmas has begun in a big way on the streets of Houma’s downtown district, and volunteers putting it all together say it’s a lot more than lights and tinsel.

A big-screen outdoor movie experience and a parade are just a few of the things contributing sights and sounds to a 2017 Christmas celebration that kicks off Friday and continues through the season.

It all starts Friday with a screening of the movie Polar Express at the courthouse square, where 100 little boxcars are being set up for children to snuggle in while watching the film, which starts at 6:30 p.m.

“They can wear their jammies if they want. This is an absolutely free event for every child in this area,” said Downtown Development Corporation Christmas Committee Chairwoman Shelly Ronquillo. “This is an opportunity to create happy, healthy memories for the children’s childhoods.”

Lots of hearts and hands are making the movie event happen. The United Houma Nation is supplying the screen. Flour De Lis Cookies of Houma is serving up cookies, Dishman Flooring is putting up a popcorn stand, and Buquet Distributing is bringing lots of water.

The cookies, milk and water are free.

Monday morning volunteers from Cenac Marine were working on a 20 by 50 foot tugboat replica, with animation, to be festooned with Christmas lights.

“Being a part of and giving back to the community that supports Cenac Marine is important to us,” said Benny Cenac, the company’s president. “We loved being a part of the festival last year and look forward to seeing this year’s additions.”

A live nativity, storytelling and a Santa’s workshop display are among the attractions that begin Saturday; The two-story-high Christmas tree acquired last year will be lit after nightfall, and this year it will have a star on top.

Ronquillo said the committee acquired the star -- and its other lights -- from Mosca Design of Raleigh.

The all-day festival will feature choral music all day by the St. Francis Catholic Church choir, the TARC Bell Choir, First United Methodist Cherub Choir, St. Matthews Episcopal Church Choir and the Coteau Baptist Church Praise Team. The Vandebilt Catholic High School Carolers will milling around downtown singing. Be forewarned, the Grinch will be milling around as well.

While supplies last there will also be cookies and hot chocolate for free. Snow will fall every hour on the hour, a gift from Louis Mohana Furniture.

Ronquillo said each member of the Christmas Committee has brought something to the table, based on their experiences, interests, or what service or product the provide.

In addition to Ronquillo, the committee includes Katie Portier, Bobby Arceneaux, Rhett Lecompte, Ronald Lirette, John Poiencot, Kim Chauvin, Dean Schouest and Anne Picou.

This year as in the past, the festival includes a “Giving Tree.” The Louis Children’s Crisis Center will benefit from goods sold on-site by Bertinot’s Best Bakery. The Terrebonne Children’s Advocacy Center will have a table and tree set up so that festival-goers can choose a tag from the tree to provide food items for holiday meals.  Toys 4 Tots will accept new, unwrapped toys.

“We have wonderful and generous donors that donated an entire parade float to children’s organizations for kids that would not otherwise have the opportunity to ride in a parade,” Ronquillo said. “Houma Float Rentals donated a float, Morris P. Hebert, Inc. donated funds for purchasing candy for throws for the kids on that float and Cannata’s provided boxes of Little Debbie snack cakes for throws as well.  We are so blessed and thankful for how our community has come together to give back.  Downtown Jeaux is giving away hot chocolate and Kim’s Shuga Shack and TARC are offering free cookies to go with that hot chocolate.  Fig Cafe provided hundreds of free cookies to the Junior Auxiliary booth for cookie decorating.”

Ronquillo said there will also be stilt walkers, a balloon cown and multiple Disney characters.

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