Adorned with twinkling lights and holiday cheer, the Sights and Sounds Festival in San Marcos has been a Christmas tradition for the city since 1987. In an attempt to keep those attending the festival safe, new crime prevention policies were put in place for this year’s festival including increased security and a clear bag policy.
Last year on Dec. 5, a stabbing took place at the festival involving two Hispanic males in their 20’s. Due to a preexisting disagreement, the suspect stabbed the victim in the neck ensuing a search for the two suspects by the San Marcos Police Department. The victim was transported to Seton Hays Hospital where he underwent emergency surgery and survived his injury.
Kassidy Covert, exercise and sports science senior, has been attending Sights and Sounds for three years, a tradition she has taken up to celebrate the holiday season.
“I was not at Sights and Sounds when the stabbing occurred,” Covert said. “But it was really scary because I knew of some friends who went on the day that it happened, so I was really concerned for their safety.”
Although the stabbing was an isolated event, Sights and Sounds took precautions to increase security at this year’s festival by implementing a clear bag policy. In addition to having bag searches at every entrance, any bag larger than 5.5-by-8.5 inches were not permitted into the park unless they are clear.
Any clear bags smaller than 12-by-6-by-12 inches, one-gallon plastic freezer bags and medical or diaper bags were allowed into the festival. Anyone with prohibited bags were asked to return them to their vehicle before gaining entrance.
“I understand why they are doing (the clear bag policy) based on the events from last year,” Covert said. “People will probably have to be more conscious about the possibility of pickpocketing or things falling out of shallow pockets by either consciously checking more often or holding things in their hand.”
Sights and Sounds Secretary Catheirne Marler said both the San Marcos Police Department and the San Marcos Park Rangers will provide security during the festival.
“The incident that occurred last year was an isolated incident by two individuals who knew each other and had disputes prior to attending the festival,” Marler said. “Our security team efficiently handled the situation and ensured that festival attendees were safe. There is no need to be discouraged from attending this year’s event as we have various policies in place, along with trained security throughout the event, in order to keep our guests safe.”
Information booths can be found around the festival grounds, where people attending are encouraged to report suspicious activity.
Alyssa Means, exercise and sports science senior, said she realized there was an increase in security at this year’s festival. She brought a small wrist wallet to the festival to adhere to the clear bag policy.
“I only went last year but I don’t remember there being a lot of security last time,” Means said. “I feel like it’s a good thing though, they are taking more precautions to ensure our safety.”
The 33rd annual Sights and Sounds Festival opened Dec. 4-7 and Dec. 11-14 with attractions including live entertainment, photos with Santa, carnival rides, a petting zoo, ice skating and thousands of lights. More information on attending the festival can be found on its website.