By Jim Goodson

Jacksonville’s new downtown nativity scene should bring joy and inspiration to generations of citizens and visitors.

“This proves that Jacksonville is a Christian community that the Lord is doing great things in,” Anita Hutson said on a frigid night at Hazel Tilton Park. She was the primary mover behind efforts to purchase and install a nativity scene for the city.

“We started seeking funds in August,” Hutson said. “By Aug. 15 we had all the funds we needed. I was never worried. I knew the Lord was behind this.”

In addition to lighting up the nativity scene, about 150 people attended the Hospice of East Texas’ Light Up A Life ceremony at the park.

The Hospice Tree of Life contains the name of hundreds of people remembered by those contributing to the organization. There are 16 East Texas Hospice Association Trees of Life throughout town squares in East Texas.

Lights at the park were switched on by Dominic White, a member of the Tilton family for whom the park is named. Master of ceremonies Ralph Lindsey also recognized Virginia Sweeney, who has played a major role in lighting and decorating the park during the past seven years.

Children from the Methodist Readiness School sang Christmas carols to conclude the lighting ceremony.

In addition to the lighting ceremony, about 300 people attended the Jacksonville Jaycees Christmas Parade in downtown Jacksonville.

The frigid conditions didn’t stop a large crowd that cheered about 50 floats and cars, many representing local churches.

The parade lasted about 45 minutes and went off without a hitch, police officers said.

Watch upcoming editions of the Jacksonville Daily Progress for more photos from the parades in Rusk and Jacksonville Thursday night.

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