By Martha Jasso
LOGOS STAFF WRITER
The annual “Light the Way” kicked off the holiday season by sharing its new home with a few thousand guests Saturday, Nov. 20, at Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium.
With a massive crowd coming from all over the city and nearby towns, the stadium stands quickly began to fill up with families, friends and acquaintances. Smiles lit up the faces of kids 12 year and younger as the UIW Spirit Team (dressed up in Santa Girl dresses) pass out Glosticks and candy. Student Ambassadors helped spread the Christmas cheer by welcoming guests with a smile and handing them a program of the performances lined up for the evening.
The weather suited the Christmas feel as it was chilly, but Sodexo Catering warmed up guests with about 40 gallons of free hot apple cider. However, the spirit of giving didn’t end there as there were two Elf Louise stations set up on both ends of the stadium where families were witnessed dropping off unwrapped toys for children in need.
Campus police helped direct traffic as well as secure the stadium at entrance points. A lit-up Nativity scene was the focal point of many family pictures at the entrance point leading to the stadium. Christmas music played over the stadium speakers.
Red, green and candy cane balloons could be spotted flying high at every corner of the stadium. The ceremony was soon to begin and it would have a potential world audience because it was being streamed live.
The St. Anthony Catholic High School Jazz Band, under the direction of David Parker, marked the beginning of the evening. KSAT12 anchors Steve Spriester and Ursula Pari emceed the program from on the east stage in the middle of the field. Min Seo Cheon, standing on the west stage, sang the national anthem.
Next up, the Incarnate Word High School Madrigals, under the direction of Mary Ann de la Garza, sang “Sing Noel.”
The Rev. Oscar Cantu of the Archdiocese of San Antonio prayed: “Bless us and make us instruments of the light of the world.”
Dr. Lou J. Agnese Jr., UIW’s president, presented the Bensons with a plaque thanking them for their gift of the stadium. Agnese also reminded guests the lights were dedicated to the men and women serving in the Armed Forces.
Then the St. Peter Prince of the Apostles Catholic School Choir, under the direction of Ellen Rodgers, sang “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.”
Continuing with the theme of giving, the first-ever “Jingle Bell Raffle” drawing was won by Phil Escobel. The prize was $5,000 on the winner’s credit card. Proceeds from the sale is going to scholarships for UIW students. H-E-B also awarded $500 in groceries each to the next two names drawn: Gloria Morales and Dick McCracken.
The celebration continued with a field performance by the UIW Cardinal Marching Band, directed by Fred Vollmer, and UIW Spirit Team performing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”
The Cardinal Chorale, under the direction of William Gokelman, sang “A Sign of Love” and “Rise Up Shepherd.”
St. Anthony’s Jazz Band with special guest Sarah Centeno entertained the audience with one of the last performances of the night. Tejano singer Patsy Torres performed a couple of numbers.
For many families as well as the community, attending “Light the Way” has become a tradition. However, each year attendance grows and new guests come for the first time. For first-timers, the Hendrix family, “all the singing, especially Patsy Torres” was among their favorite performances of the night. Mariachis led the crowd playing music as families and friends stopped to take pictures in front of different “Light the Way” sandwich boards displayed along the route or under colorfully lit trees. Student Ambassadors passed out hundreds of white candlesticks to everyone, although the candles posed to be a problem with the breezy air as they would not stay lit.
Dr. Walter Beuler, a UIW alum who was accompanied by daughters Ashley and Haylee Beuler, was among the thousands in the crowd.
“Our favorite part was when they flipped the lights,” he said.