Despite an evening as warm as the cider being served, thousands turned out for New Braunfels’ 27th annual Wassailfest Thursday night.
After an opening toast by city and county leaders at 6 p.m. on the plaza, carolers took their positions on four stages across the downtown area to sing renditions of “Jingle Bells,” “Deck the Halls” and more.
While exploring the 34 wassail stops dotting San Antonio Street, Seguin Avenue, Castell Avenue and Academy Avenue, attendees were able to check out shops and businesses downtown and mingling with neighbors and visitors.
Each of the stops submitted wassail for the 27th Annual Wassailfest Wassail Meister competition, and entries were blind judged by a panel of tasters to determine the winners.
The first-place winner was Keller Williams Heritage. The team from VFW Post 7110 took second place. Third place in the competition was awarded to Corridor Title.
“All winners are invited to be honored with an official proclamation and trophy presentation at the Jan. 13, 2020, city council meeting,” said city staff in a released statement Thursday night. “Thank you to all of our community partners for another successful event.”
Event attendee Tiffany Liparoto, a New Braunfels resident, said this year’s festival was her first time to attend.
“All my friends at work were asking, ‘How have you never been?’” Liparoto said. “It looks beautiful out here tonight — if it was 20 degrees colder, this could be a Hallmark movie.”
Liparoto’s friend Jeanette Messina said she loved hearing all the different carols being sung.
“It’s really neat that it’s kiddos from different schools around here,” Messina said. “We love listening to them.”
While handing out wassail for the first time, Boy Scout Pack 191 leader Bill Rion said he was glad to see such a good turnout for this year’s event.
“We’re hoping to let more families know we’re here in town, and this is just such a great family event,” Rion said as his sons, Will Jr., 9, and Eli, 5, helped pass out wassail.
“We’ve lived here for six years and we’ve attended Wassailfest before, but this is our first year to participate,” said the boys’ mom and Rion’s wife, Jenni Pozzi.
Decked out in red dresses covered in Santas, along with hats with elf ears, Ali Underwood and Kim Turner held a cup of wassail in one hand and samples of wassail in the other.
“We come out and wear this every year,” Underwood said, smiling. “We love the wassail, and the wine. We’re from San Antonio but we’ve come up here the past four, five years for this event.”
Visiting from Philadelphia, Maria Terinoni said she came to New Braunfels to see a friend and the two decided to try Wassailfest.
“It’s about 32 degrees up there tonight, so this is actually warm for me,” she said with a laugh. “It’s beautiful down here, I love it.”
Terinoni’s friend Kim Johnson said although she grew up in Wassailfest, this year was her first year to attend.
“We wanted to do something special, and this is such a fun way to celebrate the holidays,” Johnson said.
A highlight of the evening was a performance by New Braunfels’ own Wade Bowen, a Texas country singer, who opened his performance at 8:30 p.m. on the Shiner Beer stage.
Bowen just released a Christmas album titled Twelve Twenty-Five and accepted donations to the Bowen Family Foundation to help nonprofits fund rebuilding their booths in Wurstfest’s destroyed Marktplatz, which burned late last month.