Blanco County's traditional Living Nativity Christmas pageant set a new attendance record this month -- 1,381 people -- the most in it's almost 50-year history at the First United Methodist Church in Johnson City.
Guest-guides Dick and Janet Wiemers said it meant full bleachers at many shows, and occasionally standing room only, but they managed to get the cars parked and visitors squeezed in for all 20 performances.
Show chairman Dale Hardy attributed the boost to the good weather and the spreading notice of the pageant and other Hill Country Trail of Lights events.
"As more people hear about it, more come to see what the talk is about," he said. "We had folks here not only from Central Texas but Houston and Dallas, and from as far away as Oklahoma and Canada!"
The Rev Sid Spiller, pastor of the 1st UMC, saw a more theological attraction.
"Many of our newcomers were walking around town, enjoying the lights, and saw the lighted star over our stable. Like the three Magi, they followed the star to the manger and -- we hope -- found the true meaning of Christmas."
The show also benefitted from a larger-than-usual cast and crew this year, according to Tressy Gumbert, director of the pageant.
The church has enjoyed a surge in membership, especially among youth, which translated into more volunteer cast members and support staff.
"In some years, we've gone right up to showtime wondering who would play some of the roles. People always stepped in, of course, but this year we had the luxury of starting out with a filled-out roster, plus standby veterans who could plug any gap that might appear," Gumbert said.
At the end of the show, wardrobe mistress Pat Smith looked exhausted but pleased as she put the last costumes away for the year. Everyone had the right costume and they all fit, though some needed a bit of last-minute tucking.
At least nobody spilled hot chocolate on the angels, like last year.
"This just makes our Christmas," said one guest, as she enjoyed the free hot chocolate and cookies between shows. "We've been coming from Huntsville every year to see the lights and this show. In our family, it just wouldn't be Christmas without it."
"We understand perfectly," agreed Spiller, "it wouldn't be Christmas for us, either."