Watson puts large crowd in holiday spirit

Aaron Watson invited kids on stage to help him sing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

No one would have blamed Santa Claus had he worn short sleeves and flip-flops (but he didn’t).

With temperatures more befitting Spring Break than Christmas and sweet tea probably more refreshing on a warm breezy night than hot chocolate, there was one thing no one had to pretend Sunday night during Mingle and Jingle on Abilene Christian University’s front lawn – a Real Good Time.

Watson is a 2000 graduate of ACU.

Watson's fans crowd the stage in front of the Onstead-Packer Biblical Studies Building.

That’s the name of Aaron Watson’s newest album, which recently debuted at No. 9 on the Billboard Country Chart. It also may be the best way to describe the mood of the 2,500 people who attended ACU’s new outdoor, family-style salute to the holiday season, which featured the university’s popular homegrown country and western recording artist and 2011 Young Alumnus of the Year.

The crowd included nearly 300 high school seniors admitted for Fall 2013 who were visiting campus, ACU neighbors, and people from across Abilene who brought kids to have their photos taken with Santa, watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas on a large inflatable screen, donate toys to needy children, and join Watson in singing Christmas carols. Staging was set on the steps of the Onstead-Packer Biblical Studies Building, with the grass below forming a natural amphitheatre.

Watson's three-man, hour-long acoustic performance included backup from a mandolin player and a fiddle player.

Watson (’00) just released his 11th album and has performed on stage with Willie Nelson and other music icons. Sunday night, he shared the spotlight with youngsters to sing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and with ACU students in Silent Night. He told the audience he “lives just down the road,” and would be happy to make this a new annual tradition at ACU. Judging from the crowd’s response, that might be a real good idea.

Mingle and Jingle is one of five Season of Caring activities involving the ACU community during the holiday season. Last week, a truckload of clothes donated by students, faculty and staff were contributed to Mission Thanksgiving, an annual event organized by Love and Care Ministries to help the homeless and disadvantaged in Abilene. Cash donations from campus provided the makings for a Thanksgiving meal plus other food goods for 65 families in Abilene, 45 of them representing children at nearby Taylor Elementary School. And Treadaway Kids will be beneficiaries of the Adopt-An-Angel gift project, which includes Christmas gifts of toys and clothing. Tonight, several thousand fans were expected to attend Christmas Slam in Moody Coliseum, a basketball doubleheader between ACU and Texas A&M-Kingsville which also will serve as a collection point for toys, clothing and food.

It took two pickup trucks to hold the nearly 500 toys donated Sunday night by the Mingle and Jingle crowd, with Love and Care Ministries to serve as their distributor later this month.

Kids met Santa Claus under the lights at the Jacob's Dream sculpture site.

A crowd of 2,500 sat on lawn chairs and blankets to watch "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" before Watson's concert.


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