“It’s almost more than you’ll believe,” Sharon Hannah, director of member services of the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce said.

That’s her assessment of this weekend’s first Christmas Under the Stars Festival that will unfold in downtown Brownwood Friday night after the Lighted Christmas Parade, and return again on Saturday night. Hours for both nights will be from 7 to 10 p.m.

Several dozen booths featuring activities arranged by nonprofit organizations in the community have been lined up, and the emphasis will be on families and their children.

Events are planned from the parking lot of the Depot Civic and Cultural Center to the Lehnis Railroad Museum and to the open area that usually serves as a park for recreational vehicles. Instead, the park is now home to six portable cabins where a series of events will be provided in warm comfort, and each will cost only a dollar or two if they aren’t completely free, Hannah said.

It’s a project that has been in the making for more than a year, Hannah said, as planning for this year’s celebration began before the Christmas season had arrived in 2008.

No admission fees will be charged to the festival.

“Join us for two nights of unforgettable fun,” Hannah said. “The weather forecast calls for cold, and even a chance of snow. So bundle up and come out. It’s not only going to look like Christmas, it’s going to feel like Christmas.”

Hannah said she become involved in the festival project when she realized that the annual Lighted Christmas Parade brings hundreds of families downtown each December, but when it’s over there’s nothing for those parents and children to do. As a result, many local residents will travel to other cities to experience such festivals.

Parking will be available in the lot off of Washington Street behind the Lehnis Railroad Museum, the same location where parking was available during the Brownwood Reunion Celebration in September, as well as on nearby downtown streets like Carnegie, Fisk and Center. Handicap parking will be at Hallum Floral and next to the railroad museum, off of Washington Street. No parking will be available at Adams Street Community Center, the Depot or the Red Cross, as all those lots will be used for the festival.

The theme of the Lighted Christmas Parade preceding the opening night of the festival will be “Spirit of Christmas – Give Back to the Community.” The parade, sponsored for the first time by Southside Church, will feature the Salvation Army as its grand marshal.

Activities and booths planned for both nights include miniature Christmas village displays, a decorated Christmas tree contest, fire pit with Smores and storytelling, choirs, Christmas karaoke, "Road to Bethlehem" live nativity by Aldersgate Enrichment Center, character cutouts for pictures, photos with Santa on the caboose at the railroad museum, cookie decorating, ornament decorating, picture frame ornaments, reindeer food, pet bowl decorating, silent stocking auction, inflatable obstacle course, giant gingerbread house, live trees for sale, letters to Santa, showings of the Polar Express movie, Guitar Hero contests, cake walk, Choo Choo Christmas events at the railroad museum, paint ball tree decorating, pony rides, starlit trail of lights, and holiday treats and drinks.

As part of the weekend’s events, the Lehnis Museum will also hold grand opening for the Kress railroad depot building.