In March of 1957, developers Louis and Milton Zorensky opened the region’s newest suburban shopping center on 48 acres at the corner of Watson and Sappington roads, a big sprawling outdoor mall.

Shopping in the suburbs was a bit of a novelty. So were suburbs, for that matter. But people loved the concept of one-stop shopping. So the brothers pulled out all the stops that first holiday season, using the day after Thanksgiving to launch more stores and spread cheer throughout the community. They weren’t the first retail magnates to shamelessly promote holiday shopping, but it was a first for Crestwood.

And so at 11 a.m. on Nov. 29, 1957, Santa Claus arrived on a giant Christmas float to kick off the season. He spent the day roaming the mall with a couple of live reindeer, and stuck around that night to help light a 35-foot outdoor tree while a group of Lindbergh High students led a Christmas carol sing-along.

The opening was big enough to get a story in the Nov. 27, 1957, issue of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 

“The plaza has been decorated with two roof-top displays,” it read, “an old English street scene, and a Santa Claus with white reindeer against a backdrop of evergreen boughs. Light standards have been festooned, as are storefronts.” 

I’ll bet it was quite a time, those holiday shopping days of 1957. “Crestwood’s Gala Season,” it was called, a time when nobody batted an eye to see Santa roaming around a shopping center with live animals nor minded “festooned” being used as a verb. 

We all know what’s there now. Sadly, there hasn’t been much gala from those 48 acres on Watson for most of the decade. But that hasn’t deterred the folks behind “Christmas in Crestwood,” who are now in their sixth year working like elves to spread cheer up and down the Watson Road corridor.

This year’s event kicks off at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 30, when Santa arrives via fire truck at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church on Sappington with goodie bags and other family activities. At 3:30 p.m., Santa will lead a classic car cruise through the neighborhood east of Sappington off Rayburn Ave. He’ll be back at St. Elizabeth’s by 6 p.m. for fireworks.

Then through Dec. 25, Crestwood businesses will create their own trees and holiday decorations, and the public is invited to drop in and vote for their favorites. New to the contest this year: A scavenger hunt and smartphone voting. All the details of both Saturday’s event and the contest are available on the Christmas in Crestwood Facebook page.

 We’re a long way from 1957, but Crestwood’s Gala Season has returned and it all starts this weekend. It will be nice to use “festoon” as a verb again.