Baylor Celebrates The Holiday Season With 'Christmas On Fifth Street'

Dec. 8, 2003

by Amanda Lewis, Student Newswriter

The Baylor family kicked off the Christmas season with music and fellowship Wednesday, Dec. 3, on Burleson Quadrangle with Christmas on Fifth Street, a holiday event sponsored by the Place 2BU and Kappa Omega Tau fraternity.

The festivities began with the Kappa Omega Tau Christmas Tree Lighting, a Baylor tradition since 1966. A 50-foot Douglas fur was delivered Nov. 20 from a tree farm in northern Indiana and is decorated with several thousand lights, ornaments and topped with a lit star. The tree serves as a decorative reminder for the Baylor community of the birth of Jesus Christ.

"In 1966 KOT was a fairly new club, and we wanted to find projects that would benefit campus," said Dr. Alton Hassell, KOT alumni and sponsor. "We noticed that campus had no Christmas decorations outdoors. We decided to, at least, put up a tree. The idea of lighting the tree at a certain time was to call attention to the tree."

President Robert B. Sloan Jr. opened the ceremony with a prayer, and Hassell read the Christmas story before the tree was illuminated. Following the tree-lighting, the sorority ensemble, Kappa Pickers, and other Baylor students led the audience in a variety of Christmas carols.

"This tradition is special to me because I helped put up the first KOT Christmas tree," Hassell said. "I am also excited to see how many people are getting involved in Christmas on Fifth Street."

More than 6,500 members of the Baylor and Waco communities were then invited to bring their lawn chairs and blankets for a free concert by Christian recording artists Steve Delopoulous, Caedmon's Call and Jars of Clay at 7:30 p.m. on Fountain Mall. Delopoulous, an up-and-coming Christian artist, opened for the two popular bands that have joined together for a national tour.

"This event definitely attracted a larger number of Baylor students, faculty and members of the community than previous years because of the popularity of the bands," said Chance Connell, a McGregor sophomore and KOT member. "The night allowed people to come together to meet with friends, listen to great music and celebrate the Christmas season."

Student government approved a bill last October to contribute $12,000 toward the University-wide event. KOT members raised an additional $30,000 with donations from KOT alumni and parents. Funds were also supplemented by t-shirt sales throughout the previous week, as well as that evening.

Five members of the KOT Christmas tree lighting committee have worked since March to bring these high-profile bands to Baylor's campus. The committee members include Philip Wiegand, Ben Barnett, Will Lipscomb, Adam Sander and Drew Trenz.

According to Becki Majors, coordinator of student union programs, Christmas on Fifth Street limited its events this year due to the popularity of the featured artists.

"The event had a different feel this year; KOT gave Baylor students and people from all over Central Texas the chance to see two very popular bands," she said. "Because of the expected attendance, some changes were made to accommodate the large crowd."

While the schedule of events might have changed, the traditional Christmas atmosphere on campus has remained the same. More than 12,000 Christmas lights are displayed on the buildings which span from the Bill Daniel Student Center down Fifth Street to the Carroll Library.

Refreshments were available along Fifth Street at booths selling hot chocolate, apple cider, funnel cakes, fajitas and a variety of merchandise throughout the evening. Event t-shirts as well as band merchandise were available for purchase at a booth near Marrs McLean Gymnasium. Compassion International, a nonprofit organization which seeks to "break the cycle of poverty for children everywhere," also had volunteers present to share information about their mission.

Participants were encouraged to bring new unwrapped toys for Toys for Tots, a nonprofit organization sponsored by the U.S. Marine Corps. Toys for Tots seeks to provide Christmas gifts for underprivileged children and all of the donations will benefit Central Texas families.

"When I returned to Baylor in 1982, the free entertainment requested for each person to bring a toy to give to Toys for Tots." Hassell said. "One year, Toys for Tots got $7,000 worth of toys from the tree lighting."

This is the third year the Place 2BU and Kappa Omega Tau have co-sponsored the holiday event. Kappa Omega Tau is a local service and social fraternity committed to creating and maintaining meaningful Baylor traditions. The office of student union programs recently founded the Place 2BU program to bring free entertainment to campus for Baylor students.

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