As Sealy residents turned their calendars to the month of December, it was no secret that the community was in need of a boost to uplift spirits in the wake of a tough year.
The city’s 39-year-old fire chief, Eric Zapalac, passed away unexpectedly last month. The Sealy Tigers had a great run but didn’t advance beyond their first game in the playoffs. Many still are experiencing losses from Hurricane Harvey.
But the residents put their worries aside over the weekend and enjoyed perfect weather, food, fellowship and a mountain of fake snow at the 31st annual Fantasy of Lights.
“This is the best Fantasy of Lights we’ve had in years,” said Melanie Willingham, president of the Sealy Community Foundation. “Everything flowed so well. We had some new animals in the petting zoo that were a huge hit and the kids loved the huge snow globe that they could climb into for a good photo op. The snow slide for both age groups was loved by all.”
This year’s theme was Christmas Around the World. Participation was at record highs in the fun runs, softball tournament, barbecue cook-off, gingerbread house decorating contest and annual holiday parade.
“The parade was probably one of the best ones we’ve ever had,” Willingham said. “The highlight for me was seeing the Sealy Fire Department ladder truck carrying Santa. This was one of Eric Zapalac’s last projects before he passed. I bugged him about it being ready for Fantasy of Lights. It was a very nice tribute to Eric to see it rolling down Main Street. I know he was proud.”
Willingham exemplifies the closeness of the Sealy community. She’s a firefighter wife and spoke at Zapalac’s memorial service. She, along with the rest of the community, continues to pick up the pieces of a year that brought some sadness, but looks for a silver lining.
She may have found one.
For a moment in time, there were no tears. There were hugs and handshakes and a spirit of excitement that Christmas is coming and we remain Sealy Strong.
“It was a nice kickoff to the Christmas season,” Willingham said.