Attendance grows at Festival of Lights in Hidalgo

HIDALGO — As one approaches the entrance here at the Festival of Lights, a sudden excitement rushes over you as a colorful gleam sets the scene.

A castle arc entrance made of blue and white lights greeted visitors as they entered the illuminated trail. Going through the path one sees figurines of Minions, Dr. Suess characters, dinosaurs, Santa Claus and other pop culture icons.

The city of Hidalgo held its 31st annual Festival of Lights at the Payne Arena, located at 2600 N. 10th St. in Hidalgo. It features a 2-mile drive-thru of holiday lights, an artisan market and carnival rides.

According to Selenne Garza, special events director for the city of Hidalgo, this year’s festival included a new addition, a Christmas maze, and is growing in popularity.

Young visitors enjoy the Festival of Lights at Payne Arena in Hidalgo in December 2022. (Courtesy: Hidalgo Festival of Lights/Facebook)

“We had the 12 Days of Christmas throughout the entire maze plus other displays — giant teddy bears, giant snowmen, giant Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and tunnels,” Garza said, adding that it was the perfect photo-op place.

The maze was over 1,000 square feet with a Christmas tree at its center.

Garza explained that each of the displays are handmade by the parks department, which she said only adds to the magic of the festival.

Although its run extended from Dec. 16 through Jan. 1, the planning began months in advance.

According to Garza, the planning and creation of each structure begins six to seven months in advance of the event due to them being handmade.

One of the Minions greets visitors of the Festival of Lights at Payne Arena in Hidalgo in December 2022. (Courtesy: Hidalgo Festival of Lights/Facebook)

The preparations then take about two months to set up before opening day.

This year’s theme was so fittingly called “Tales of Illumination” which not only highlighted the wacky characters from “Despicable Me,” but also emphasized the bright glow of the Christmas lights.

As one passes through the Minions section of the festival it is accompanied by funny audio clips from the film.

Kids on the Santa Express pointed in excitement as the train went down each row. Halfway through the path, one goes through the H-E-B tunnel of lights, which is over 600 feet long. The trail then leads to their superhero sections, Star Wars and Disney sections.

The trail even included highlights from last year’s “Beauty and the Beast” theme such as paintings of the stained glass reminiscent of the beloved animated film.

Every year, the city sees an increase in attendance as more and more people line up to see their colorful displays. In fact, Garza explained that while she didn’t have exact numbers available yet, this year has seen about a 20% to 30% increase in attendance compared to last year.

She added that they see visitors from places like Canada, Dallas and Houston.

A castle of lights greets visitors at the Festival of Lights at Payne Arena in Hidalgo in December 2022. (Courtesy: Hidalgo Festival of Lights/Facebook)

Garza said she spoke to one family who had come down from South Carolina to see the festival.

“They brought their grandkids and they were just elated. They were just so excited and they had said that it was the best thing they had ever seen,” Garza said.

The last day to attend the festival is Sunday. It’s held from 6 to 11 p.m. and tickets are sold at

“Right now we’re already discussing what we are going to be doing for next year … we’re already planning what the theme will be, what things are we going to do new, what we are adding and other special surprises for our guests,” Garza said.

To see more, view Monitor photojournalist Joel Martinez’s full photo gallery here:

Photo Gallery: Holiday lights at Hidalgo City Hall