KILGORE — Kilgore High School counselor Courtney Clements recognized 2003 graduate Chase Headley inside Paisley’s on Saturday night in downtown Kilgore and greeted him and his girlfriend, Caroline Baxter.

However, the encounter during Mingle & Jingle was hardly a rarity for Clements and Headley, who lives in Dallas.

“We communicate on Facebook all the time,” Clements said. Headley said he has known Clements for 19 years and was happy to see her.

Mingle & Jingle, which downtown merchants started in 2007 to coincide with Small Business Saturday, is one of the biggest events in Kilgore during the holiday season. Sixteen of the 35 downtown merchants participated, said Kilgore Community Relations Manager Sonya Waters.

It draws anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 people, said Ryan Polk, tourism director for the Kilgore Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau.

However, the event is small and personal enough where someone like Headley can bump into his former high school counselor.

Attendees browsed through stores, met merchants and vendors and ate free samples of cookies and other goodies. Some also rode a horse-drawn carriage through downtown Kilgore streets.

People with strong ties to the community showed up along with out-of-towners attending for the first time.

“I love this town,” said Alain Gee as he and family members patronized FaithFit Nutrition on North Kilgore Street. He said his family has ties to Kilgore going back more than 100 years.

Gee said Mingle & Jingle “just brings this community together, brings people downtown. It gets people to shop local.”

Among the people attending was first-timer Deanna Greene of Longview. She came with her daughter, Brooklyn Pritchett; granddaughter, Addison Pritchett, 18 months; and Brooklyn’s mother-in-law, Sheri Pritchett.

They said they planned to stroll around and find Santa Claus to meet Addison.

Like Greene, Tonie Titus of Palestine attended Mingle & Jingle for the first time. She came with daughters Jordyn, 11, and Morgan, 7, and her parents, Laura and Keith Stanley of Kilgore.

Jordyn and Morgan decorated Christmas ornaments at a vendor’s booth.

“I want to do this for a living,” Jordyn said.

Asked why, she turned around and said, “To put smiles on people’s faces.”

A big draw for younger children was Santa Flavious and his sidekick, Joshua the Elf, who were seen on Main Street. Flavious said he goes by that name to distinguish himself from the other Santas.

The next holiday event in downtown is Christmas in Kilgore, which is set Dec. 14.

Find Kilgore Main Street on Facebook for more information.

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