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The Highlands United Methodist Church brings Christmas fun to community
During the FX Christmas Event, participants enjoyed interactive games including the Snowman Stuff, where teams compete to stuff the snowman in the allotted amount of time, and the Snowball Toss, where children are thrown “snowballs” by their parents and the one holding the most when time runs out, wins. - photo by ELISE PERKINS

Weeks of curiosity sparked by random cars around Gainesville sporting a scrawled message of “FX Christmas, An Extreme Family Event” ended Sunday when The Highlands United Methodist Church hosted its first free Christmas event at North Hall Community Center.

“It is a mixture of fun and games and Christmas music,” said Elizabeth Jones, director of Children and Family Ministries for the church. “It’s a family event where families will be involved and get pulled up on stage and kids get to do fun games with their parents, and at the same time the Christmas gospel message will be presented. It’s kind of interwoven throughout the event.”

The entire event was interactive and involved the crowd, parents and children alike. The playful nature of the events sparked a competitive streak through the crowd as it was divided into two teams, participating in group events between the stage show.

“Donnie Slade from Kids Blitz Ministry comes in and puts the event on using our people from the church,” Jones said. “Volunteers to run the games and so forth, and he will actually come out into the audience and pick kids and families from the audience.”

Extreme events throughout the show differ in skill level and number of participants. Whether it was a team of four girls and boys or a parent-and-child duo, there was an opportunity for everyone to participate.

“Seeing all kinds of different people come in from the community is great,” said Amy Green, a Gainesville resident and volunteer at the church. “There are some people who might not be able to do other activities that might cost money so this is a wonderful way that anyone can come enjoy the holidays.”

As the final countdown to Christmas begins, the opportunities to attend events free to the public are sometimes hard to find.

“We decided to do this event free of charge; the church is taking care of the bill for it,” Jones said. “Tickets would usually be $5 or $10 a person and for a family, especially right here at Christmas, that’s not necessarily something that they can do. Especially if it’s a single mom or a grandparent taking care of grandkids or someone like that. That’s $20 to $30 that they may not have at Christmas and so it’s the first year we’ve done it and we just wanted a way to give back to the community and share with families.”

Nearly 535 people preregistered for the event, but Jones said she hoped for standing room only, even with 625 seats available. There was also a drawing held for a chance to win one of four $250 gift cards for those who preregistered before the day of the event.

With the help of over 70 volunteers who did everything from setting up to greeting people to directing people where to park, there were helpful smiles to direct the families that came together to enjoy a night of fun, filled with Christmas-themed games for the entire family.

“This will be a way to give back to the community this year and just have some fun and show people that church people don’t have to be scary,” Jones said. “That we have fun, too, and they can learn about the real reason for Christmas, and the fun and the games.”

“It’s been phenomenal,” Green said. “It’s absolutely awesome.”

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