Main Street: Downtown Marshall offers many activities for the holidays

The Historic Harrison County Courthouse in downtown Marshall on Monday September 25, 2017. (Michael Cavazos/News-Journal Photo)

More restaurants. More shopping. More history, and, this December, more lights and more fun.

Marshall’s Wonderland of Lights returns Nov. 22 for its 31st year, bringing with it hundreds of thousands of lights to illuminate the city’s heart and its historical Harrison County Courthouse. The more than month-long holiday festival amazes Carolyn Howard, who became director of the city’s Main Street and Convention and Visitor’s Bureau in 2016.

Howard says she’s never seen anything like the Wonderland of Lights – a 34-day event held in one location with consistent activity.

“I don’t know of anybody that does that at Christmastime,” she says. “If you want to talk about places like Six Flags or something, they may do it, but this is a small town that puts this on. That is saying a lot about this town. I’ve been at this 30 years and I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”

As a Main Street city, Marshall focuses on revitalization of its historic central business district, Howard says, including restoration of historic buildings, encouraging businesses to locate downtown and marketing and promoting the city’s center.

“Wonderland is just one of many things we do,” Howard says, that promotes the city and its downtown while helping bring people to Marshall to stay the night and spend money in local businesses.

Many downtown buildings have been restored.

“I am very impressed with the businesses I see down here,” Howard says of downtown, adding in September that two new businesses had just opened – a new coffee shop and a soul food restaurant. A number of other businesses have called downtown home for a while.

Downtown businesses welcome Wonderland of Lights visitors.

“The retail businesses and the restaurants are great about staying open every night. So, if you want to have food, whether it be something light or something a little heavier, we have a huge variety of food and then a lot of shopping, whether it’s clothes, gifts, jewelry — all of it,” Howard says.

Rhonda Phelps owns The General Store-Addictions by Rhonda in downtown Marshall. Wonderland of Lights is a great event full of Christmas spirit, she said. All the stores will be decorated and open.

She says, though, that Downtown Marshall offers events year-round, as well as a variety of shopping and dining.

“We’re trying to offer the fellowship for people to come downtown,” she said, adding there’s music on Monday nights and outdoor theater, among other events. “We have a lot of places they can sit and drink coffee or wine and visit.”

Howard describes Wonderland as “just delightful,” but she also says it’s taking a “huge leap forward” this year, with several new additions.

The festival, which offers free admission with separate costs for some activities, will add have more lights.

Howard says organizers also will add attractions to the west side of the square, which didn’t have anything in 2016. The answer to that is three “tiny houses” that Howard says were made possible by sponsor McKool Smith Law Firm. One of the houses will be for Santa Claus, one will be a place for children to make wooden trains and another will allow them to decorate cookies.

“My goal is this: That it keeps moving to be better and better, but as long as the quality is better,” Howard says. “That’s what I’m looking for. That means sustainability.”

Visitors will see construction underway to renovate Memorial City Hall in downtown Marshall. Once completed, it will house a theater, meeting space and a military museum in the basement.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau also will have a souvenir shop in its office this year.

The festival also will feature old favorites, including an ice skating rink, horse drawn carriages and Frosty’s Big Bounce – a “huge” Frosty the Snowman bounce house.

The festival is adding a night to its weekly schedule and will be open Tuesday nights. That means it will be open 6 to 9 p.m. Sundays and Tuesdays through Fridays, and 4 to 10 p.m. Saturdays through Dec. 31. The event is closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Special events are planned for each Saturday.

For a schedule or to pre-purchase tickets for certain activities, visit


    Blissmoor Valley Ranch Company Store

    • 208 N. Washington Ave.
    • (903) 472-4550

    The Brass Trunk

    Deborah’s Boutique

    • 100 W. Grand Ave.
    • (903) 927-2330

    Downtown Girls and Brother

    • 100 W. Grand Ave., Suite C
    • (903) 934-8200

    The General Store —Addictions by Rhonda

    • 216 N. Washington Ave.
    • (903) 930-0307

    Gingko Leaf Gallery

    The Linen Peddler

    • 211 N. Bolivar St.
    • (903) 935-3530

    Pazzo Vino Wine Bar and Expresso Lounge

    Studio 102

    • 102 E. Austin St.
    • (903) 926-2123

    The Weisman Center


    The Blue Frog Restaurant

    Burrito Bliss

    • 208 N. Washington Ave.
    • (903) 472-4550

    Cajun Tex

    • 104 W. Grand Ave.
    • (903) 935-7719

    Central Perks

    D’s Diner

    • 216 N. Washington Ave.
    • (903) 930-0302

    Joe Pine Coffee Co

    • 207 N. Washington Ave.
    • (605) 239-1351

    McKee's Soul Food

    • 211 N. Wellington St.
    • (903) 471-5060

    OS2 Restaurant & Pub

    Pazerria by Pietro’s

    R&R Bakery and Coffee Shoppe

    Sweet Sabine’s

    • 111 E. Houston St.
    • (903) 702-7933