LUBBOCK, TEXAS — The National Ranching Heritage Center (NRHC) on the Texas Tech University campus invites the public to step back in time and celebrate a frontier Christmas during the 45th Annual Candlelight at the Ranch. The event takes place from 6:30-9 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 8 and Saturday, Dec. 9.
Candlelight at the Ranch is free to the public with a suggested $5 donation per family. Visitors can expect to be immersed in a nostalgic Christmas experience of holiday traditions and celebrations. More than 5,000 luminaries will light the paths of the 19-acre park, and holiday scenes set in the historic structures will be illuminated primarily with lanterns, fireplaces, and campfires.
New this year will be a free shuttle service for attendees parking in the event’s satellite lot starting at 6:15 p.m. This parking area, located at UMC Medical Center at the southwest corner of Fourth Street and Indiana Avenue, will be serviced by Citibus. The buses will deliver visitors to the front door of the National Ranching Heritage Center and loop back to the UMC parking lot throughout each evening. A parking and shuttle service map is available on the event website at ranchingheritage.org/candlelight.
“The popularity of Candlelight at the Ranch in years’ past as a holiday must-do sometimes brought with it longer walks from the parking lots,” said Jim Bret Campbell, executive director of the National Ranching Heritage Center. “The new shuttle service will provide convenient access to and from the event so that everyone can come out and enjoy the experience.”
Campbell also added that the line to enter NRHC typically moves quickly once the doors open.
“If you arrive and see what looks like a longer line out front, hang around as it will move fairly quickly. We are adding sit-down waiting areas and restrooms at the front entrance for those who are meeting groups or preparing for their turn to enter.”
Once inside NRHC, visitors can choose the order in which they view the historic structures and walk the lighted pathways, and when to exit the park before closing. This “open range” system allows visitors to enjoy the experiences at their own pace.
Each of the featured historic structures recreates an authentic holiday scene for visitors to observe. “Pioneer ranches were without electricity, so we strive to recreate what each of our historical structures would have looked like at Christmas in its own time,” said Julie Hodges, NRHC Helen DeVitt Jones Endowed Director of Education. “Many of the 55 structures in the park are between 100 and 175 years old, so we are keen on authenticity.”
Making those authentic scenes possible is a host of community volunteers. The event this year will feature a record number of helpers. “We’ve had more volunteer sign-ups than ever before,” Hodges shared. “Over 200 community volunteers, many dressed in period attire, will help bring to life Christmas during the frontier days. Candlelight at the Ranch is only possible through their dedication and effort.”
In addition to individual volunteers, various community groups, Texas Tech University student organizations, and musical acts will welcome guests. Visitors can purchase holiday refreshments in the decorated 1908 Four Sixes Barn while enjoying Christmas music with a Texas swing by Brazos West.
Santa Claus will reside in the Pitchfork Pavilion where visitors can say hello and snap a picture. He will leave promptly at 9 p.m. to get back to his workshop; guests eager to meet Santa are encouraged to come to the Pitchfork Pavilion by 8 p.m. The 45th Annual Candlelight at the Ranch is made possible in part by Helen Jones Foundation, Inc. and The CH Foundation.
The NRHC is wheelchair- and stroller-accessible.
In collaboration with NRHC, the International Cultural Center (ICC) at Texas Tech will host Weihnachtsfest: A Celebration of German Christmas Traditions from 6-7:30 p.m. on Friday (Dec. 9). The ICC is located at 601 Indiana Ave., within easy walking distance of the NRHC, and the event is free to the public.