For 50 years the Lufkin community has lit up Rudolph, marking the beginning of the holiday season.

For many East Texans, tonight celebrated an annual tradition that marks the start of the holiday season – the lighting of Rudolph.

A full-size Mark 640 oil pumping unit, decorated to look like Santa Claus’ leading reindeer, was lit with hundreds of Christmas lights tonight in the Lufkin Mall parking lot.

Since 1966, the lighting tradition has brought hundreds of families each year to see the pumping unit, brought to the city by GE Oil & Gas. Tonight was not any different as parents and children were dressed in jackets to beat the cold weather. Milk and cookies were given out, along with red antler headbands, as the crowd waited for their favorite reindeer to light up the night sky.

“We welcome you to the 50th year of Rudolph The Red Nose Pumping Unit,” host Doug Holland said. “We’re glad to be here, and be a part of this community and continue the tradition we have for 50 years.”

After welcoming the crowd, Holland told the boys and girls that there was someone sleeping and to cheer for the man with the big rosy cheeks to wake him up. On a count of three from the host, all the boys and girls cheered their loudest to get Santa Claus to come say hello.

Three young girl cheering to wake up Santa Claus.
Three young girl cheering to wake up Santa Claus.

“Merry Christmas everyone, how are y’all tonight?,” Santa said as he arose from his sleeping chambers. “I want to hear your best Ho, Ho, Hos. …Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas.”

After Santa made his way through the crowd, taking pictures with fans of all sizes, Holland addressed the crowd and welcomed Plant Manager Matt Polly to the stage. Polly told the audience about the hard work that went into getting Rudolph ready for its debut tonight. He said it took two days for service men to erect the pumping unit and four days for electricians to get 4,000 LED lights on to “make sure Rudolph was nice and bright for us.”

A photo of Santa Claus.

With the crowd waiting in anticipation for the lighting to begin, the time finally came. With a final countdown and cheers from the crowd, the button was pressed and Rudolph lit up the night sky, pumping up, and down as if it was getting ready to fly into the night sky. Attached to the pumping unit is a 38-foot dump trailer decorated to look like Santa’s sleigh, complete with a wooden cutout of gifts for children across the world.

Rudolph will be on showcase daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. throughout the holiday season.

Lufkin Community Band under the direction of David Smith and the 10-member choir Harmony led by Becky Compton entertained the crowds with popular Christmas tunes. Oak Farms Dairy, Auntie Anne’s, and Great American Cookies provided the milk and cookies.