Holiday Village Has `Something For Everyone’

Nearly three dozen Christmas cottages fill the green space between the Camille Lightner Playhouse and the Children's Museum of Brownsville.

Holiday Village Has `Something For Everyone’
Story by Ric Cavazos

Holiday Village Brownsville is whimsical with all the trappings and decorations of Christmas interspersed with historical representations of its host city.

For six weeks every holiday season, Dean Porter Park comes alive with nearly three dozen cottages filling the green space between the Camille Lightner Playhouse and the Children’s Museum of Brownsville. The cottages are eight-to-10 feet at their base and go up to 14 feet high. Lights of the classic holiday colors twinkle on little roofs and picture windows display dolls, Santas and elves, with miniature Christmas trees adding the just-right touch.

Brownsville history is included among the park village with one cottage representing the home of Brownsville’s founder, Charles Stillman, and another featuring Mercy Hospital, the city’s first medical center. In 2010, the Holiday Village’s first year, there were 10 cottages. There were 34 cottages standing during the 2023 holiday season, with two more planned for 2024. The cottages are sponsored by local businesses and families.

“We have something for everyone,” said Laurie Ray, the chair person for the committee overseeing the Holiday Village. “Some (cottages) are very nostalgic and others are modern. It lights up the park and brings a lot of people to Brownsville from all over the Valley.”

Upwards of 150,000 visitors enjoy Christmas at Dean Porter Park every holiday season via the colorful cottages making up a mini-community between the playhouse and museum – and just across the street from the Gladys Porter Zoo. From the Monday before Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, the Holiday Village comes alive and there is no admission charge to see the cottages during daytime hours and the more festive and colorful evening hours. The village lights twinkle up to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

It’s an all-volunteer effort and project that is actively supported by the city of Brownsville. The city provides security services and storage space for the many cottages in addition to transporting the little houses every year from an airport-area warehouse to the park. A local architect, Roberto Ruiz, provides cottage designs at no charge. A local nonprofit, YouthBuild, does the construction work.

Ray says Holiday Village visitors predominately come from Brownsville and Cameron County but a growing number hail from the upper Rio Grande Valley area. Many Winter Texans visit the collection of holiday cottages in enjoying their holidays in South Texas.

“We love having Winter Texans come,” Ray said. “They are as likely to show up during the day as the evening hours.”

Food vendors are located in the Holiday Village for visitors needing a bite to eat or a hot chocolate or coffee to keep warm on chilly nights. Combine a trip to the village with a play at Camille Lightner or an outing at the zoo, and it’s easy to see holiday enthusiasts having a great time in Brownsville.

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