70 Years of Celebrating Christmas in WaKeeney

The 70thanniversary of the first tree lighting ceremony in the “Christmas City of the High Plains” is only days away as we ‘round the corner to the holiday season. Our festival planners have been busy planning an extravaganza of fun and festive activities on Saturday, November 28thto kick off the season and celebrate seven decades of holiday spirit in WaKeeney.

Holiday Shopping

Get your Christmas shopping lists ready for the Annual Christmas Bazaar hosted by the Trego County Home Based Businesses. Vendors from across Western Kansas will be displaying their products for shoppers to find the perfect gifts for their family and friends. From personal care items, to Christmas ornaments you will treasure for years; you’ll find something special at the Christmas Bazaar held at the Trego County Fairgrounds from 9 AM – 4 PM.

Christmases of Years Past

Visit the Trego County Historical Society Museum for a trip back in time through the “Timeless Holiday Tradition” display. It explores the holiday traditions held dear by the people of our community and shares the story of how WaKeeney became “The Christmas City of the High Plains.” Included in the exhibition is a scaled down model of our Christmas tree and life-sized replicas of the bells, wreaths, and stars still used in the Main Street display to this day. The museum is open from 10 AM – 4 PM.

Christmas Comes Alive

Bring the kids to the WaKeeney Public Library for a live puppet show of the Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol.” It is a story of redemption for our favorite Christmas “humbug” Ebenezer Scrooge who learns the true meaning of Christmas with the help of the ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future. The performance begins at 2 PM. 

Christmas Traditions in Downtown WaKeeney

Join us on Main Street and take a ride on the Nex-Tech Express Train or a horse drawn wagon. See our famous Christmas lights from the unique perspective of an old-time ride down Main Street. Tickets are FREE for the train and wagon rides, as well as a visit later with Santa. They are available for pick up at the WaKeeney Public Library beginning at 3 PM and everyone is encouraged to grab one to reduce the chance of long lines. The rides will run between 4 PM and 8 PM. 

A Visit from Santa’s Reindeer

Christmas wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of Santa’s team of reindeer. Stop by their holiday trailer parked on Main Street to wish them well on their long trek around the world on Christmas Eve. There will be four live reindeer to view, which runs from 4 – 8 PM.

A Communal Meal to Warm the Christmas Spirit

Plan to stop at the VFW Hall for a bowl of hot soup and a delicious dessert. This is an annual event that warms the heart, as well as the spirit. The selection of soups and desserts are homemade by the local chefs of the VFW Auxiliary and will be served at 4:30 PM. You can choose to eat there or take a meal to go. Bring your appetites!

Hometown Christmas Hospitality

Get a jump on your holiday shopping by visiting Downtown WaKeeney businesses. Many of them offer special sales during the event, as well as sweets to enjoy and fun activities for the kids. Businesses participating in Santa’s Downtown Workshop will be open from 5 – 8 PM. 

Be sure to stop by the recently updated North Pole Park to see the photo mural that was recently added to the north wall. The image was captured by Sarah Hille of Free Range Photography and recently installed by Commercial Sign Company. Gather your family together to take photos behind the fun elves and snowmen cut outs—a perfect photographic souvenir of your time in WaKeeney! 

And, don’t forget to stock up on WaKeeney Christmas City note cards to send to all your friends this holiday season. The image is a reproduction of an original oil painting by local artist Laurie Albin. Two styles are available for $10 per package of five and all proceeds go to the North Pole Project. They are available at Gibson’s Health Mart, Solution North Bank, First Federal Bank, Peoples State Bank, The Studio 128, and Trego County Historical Museum.

70 Years of Christmas Joy Under WaKeeney’s Famous Tree

Come celebrate the 70thAnniversary of the “Christmas City of the High Plains”when we turn on the lights to our famous 35-foot Christmas tree!The TCHS band will be playingour favorite holiday songs under the direction of Randy Saueraswe wait for Santa’s arrival. The Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony begins at 6 PM and Santa will make his way down Main Street to light the tree and its heavenly blue canopy at approximately 6:15 PM. 

Santa’s Arrival in the “Christmas City of the High Plains”

Bring your kids to the North Pole Park to show Santa his new “home” in WaKeeney. Our volunteer team of elves have been working hard to get it ready for Santa so he can sit in comfort as he receives our children’s Christmas wish lists. Treats will be handed out, along with Christmas cheer, after the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony concludes around 6:15 PM. Kids can bring their letters to Santa and deposit them in the North Pole Park Victorian-style mailbox. 

Celebrating 70 Years of Christmas Spirit

WaKeeney has been celebrating Christmas with bright lights and lots of holiday spirit for seven decades. With the new additions of LED lights, a new home for Santa, and the updates to North Pole Park, we are ready to ring in another seventy years. Please join us under the lights of our famous tree on November 28th, 2020 (always the Saturday after Thanksgiving) to celebrate the holidays and the festive spirit of the “Christmas City of the High Plains.” 

This annual tradition will continue in 2020 but we urge everyone to practice safety measures. Please, follow social distancing guidelines & please wear masks if required.  Follow us on Facebook @GetWaKeeney, check out our website, or call (785) 743-8325 for more information.

Enjoy and Be Safe!

A New Home for Santa at North Pole Park in Downtown WaKeeney

We’re sprucing up the “Christmas City of the High Plains,” with even more lights, fresh updates, and a new home for Santa!

The New Santa House

WaKeeney’s famous Christmas light display is celebrating its 70thanniversary on Saturday, November 28, 2020 and our community wants to make it the most memorable year yet! We’ve been busy planning an amazing festival to welcome Santa to our community, and we’re even giving him a new house to greet the children who are anxiously awaiting his arrival. 

Construction crews have been busy erecting a larger traditional wood frame house, with a porch and two doors for easier access to the “big guy” and to make it a comfortable place for him to rest during his visit to Downtown WaKeeney.

The new Santa House will be replacing the smaller, metal one that has been part of North Pole Park since its founding. The park celebrates everything Christmas and is a great place for selfies to commerorate a visit to WaKeeney anytime of year. 

Christmas Decorating has Already Begun in Downtown WaKeeney
More updates are planned for the upcoming holiday season. A new 12’ X 12’ picture mural taken by Sarah Hille of Free Range Photography will be installed on the park’s north wall by Commercial Sign Company. An interpretive panel will be installed next to it to provide more information about our famous 35-foot tree and its historic decorations.

You’ll also find new holiday cutouts in the park, with face openings cut into them for fun photo opportunities. Created by local craftsmen and artists, these elves are different sizes so the entire family can get into the picture and celebrate the holiday spirit any time of year.

Christmas Shopping in WaKeeney

Our Main Street light display continues to grow, too! LED perimeter lightsare being added to the top of the Trego County Courthouse to match the perimeter lights that were installed on the commercial buildings in 2018. These lights are displayed throughout the year, with colors that can be changed to celebrate different holidays and our local schools’ colors. 

Make Plans to Celebrate the Holidays in the “Christmas City of the High Plains”

Join us on Saturday, November 28, 2020 when Santa arrives at his brand-new house! The Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony is a free, annual outdoor event, and the light display will be visible nightly until after New Year’s Day 2021. Due to the current social distancing restrictions, the Virtual Reality Ride has been cancelled and please be sure to bring your mask and practice social distancing while at the event. 

Come celebrate 70 years of holiday spirit in the “Christmas City of the High Plains!” More events arebeing planned for the 2020 celebration, so check in with local sources for more information.

The Holidays Come Early to the “Christmas City of the High Plains!”

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the first tree lighting and we’re kicking off the festivities early with a look into the past as we prepare for the future during “Christmas in July!”

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Putting the Shine on Christmas

Over the past few weeks, members of our community have gathered together to clean up and refurbish the decorations that have turned Downtown WaKeeney into a glittering holiday spectacle every December since 1950.

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The 24 original, handmade bells and 14 wreaths that decorate our streets each year are stored throughout the room in the “Christmas Room” in the City Building. Recently, a group of volunteers spent the two evenings cleaning and painting them to put the shine back on when they greet our guests at the 70th anniversary event of the “Christmas City of the High Plains.” They are just one piece of the beautiful display that brings people from all over the world to our town every Christmas Season.

Throughout the years, we’ve added even more to the display, which now boasts 1100-yards of greenery, additional decorations, 6,800 red, yellow, blue, and green lights, and the new LED perimeter lights installed in 2018 that decorate Downtown WaKeeney all year long!

1950's Christmas Tree

Photo provided by Trego County Historical Society Museum.

Christmas, Past and Present

When our four-square block Christmas display was first revealed in 1950, newspapers from Kansas and Colorado visited our town to cover the grand presentation. The Hays Daily News, Wichita Beacon, Topeka Capital, Wichita Eagle, and the Denver Post all attended the inaugural ceremony, capturing the beauty in photographs to share with their readers. They nicknamed WaKeeney “The Christmas City of Kansas” and the “Christmas Decorations City,” giving it the distinction of being a “must see” holiday experience.

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Photo provided by Trego County Historical Society Museum.

 

The Trego County Historical Society Museum has joined the “Christmas in July” celebration with an exhibit that celebrates our tree and it’s history. Fourteen Christmas trees are currently on display, and each month an additional fourteen trees will be added until there are 70 Christmas trees of all shapes and sizes in the museum. Included in the collection is a replica of the first Christmas tree that was made to scale and donated by Sylvia Sherfick.

Current and former residents of our community are invited to be a part of the exhibition by sharing their treasured photographs or memories of past tree lightning ceremonies. Contact the Historical Society Museum for more information.

Celebrating the 70thAnniversary of WaKeeney’s Christmas Tree

Don’t forget to order your official anniversary t-shirt. The “Too Lit to Quit” t-shirts can be preordered now at the Bonfire online store. (They come in grey/black, blue, purple, red, and Christmas green, with the official 70th anniversary and the “Too Lit to Quit” logos printed in white. The shirts can be ordered as a short sleeve or long sleeve shirt, in sizes Youth, to 3XL and they can be shipped to your home or they can be picked up at Malay’s Market. The proceeds from the shirts will go toward the construction of a new Santa House in North Pole Park.

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Photo provide by the Trego County Historical Society Museum.

The Holiday Spirt is Alive and Well in WaKeeney, Kansas

For 70 years, WaKeeney has been the “Christmas City of the High Plains.” The traditions, memories, and good tidings our tree has provided our community and its visitors is at the center of a six-month celebration that will be remembered for years to come. Join us in celebrating “Christmas in July” and meet us under the tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving, November 28, 2020!

 

 

Taking the “Christmas City of the High Plains” Into the Future

The work is already underway to install new LED Color-Changing Lights from Inception Lighting along the buildings of Downtown WaKeeney and soon our famous Christmas Festival will be brighter than ever, thanks to those who have contributed to the “Get Lit” campaign!

Christmas in July

Fundraising Efforts Turn on the Lights in Downtown WaKeeney

Through continued fundraising efforts, several generous donations from local citizens and businesses, sales of our campaign t-shirts and a grant from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation, these new LED Color-Changing Lights will be ready to light up the “Christmas City of the High Plains” in just a few short weeks from now! The City of WaKeeney is donating the labor to install the lights as well as the utility costs and Nex-Tech has donated the monthly WiFi fee to operate the lights. They are a welcome addition to the historic decorations featured in our famous holiday display, with color versatility and cost advantages that will go on throughout the year.

WaKeeney's Get Lit Campaing

Photo courtesy of Inception Lighting

Beauty and Benefits Added to Our Christmas Lights

The addition of the lights represents a new step in the history of holiday decorating in Downtown WaKeeney. New LED technologies provide benefits unimaginable in the early days of our Christmas Festival when Art Kraus and Jake Heckman hand-built the wreaths, bells, and stars wood cutouts that hang from the garlands strung across Main Street and Russell Avenue.

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Along with beauty and flexibility, these lights are easy to install, operate, and maintain, with lower overall costs for our community. The entire system is guaranteed to last for up to ten years and we’re expecting the overall cost savings will be in the thousands of dollars, with an estimated yearly utility bill of only $300!

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The Season of Giving Has Already Begun

Thank you to all the people, businesses, Nex-Tech, and the City of WaKeeney for donating their time and money to this effort to light up Downtown WaKeeney!

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There is still time to contribute to this community cause. A Go Fund Me  pagehas been set up for online contributions and the “Get Lit” shirts are available for purchase at The Studio 128 (128 Main St.) and Heartland Foods (401 Russell Ave). And, just like our famous Christmas lights, they come in six colors—red, green, yellow, grey, royal blue, and purple. They have the “Christmas City of the High Plains” logo on the front, and the “Get Lit” logo on the back and sell for $12 in S-XL and $15 for 2X.

Join us at the Dedication Ceremony When We Turn on the Lights!

Installation of the LED lights will take several weeks and plans are already set to turn the lights on as soon as they are done. We invite you to join us at the dedication ceremony scheduled for Saturday, November 24, 2018, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, at our“68th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony.” It’s the perfect time to show our gratitude to all the fabulous people who have made this next step in our holiday celebration possible.

 

 

 

 

The “Get Lit” Campaign Will Shed New Light on WaKeeney’s Downtown

The Christmas City of the High Plains will be bringing even more sparkle to the holiday season with added lights acquired through the “Get Lit” campaign.

Christmas in July

The “Get Lit” campaign is an initiative to raise money for new programmable, color-changing LED light strands from Inception Lighting. Once installed, they will become a year-long feature along the top of the buildings lining Downtown WaKeeney.

Christmas in July

Photo from Inception Lighting

LED lighting is changing the game in industrial decorative lighting by providing three additional benefits for our city.

Maximum aesthetic appeal

The light strand’s mechanics are designed to be discretely attached to the architecture of the buildings so the brilliance of the lights is the only operational part seen, day or night. The multi-colored lights are easily programmable so the city can choose different combinations throughout the year for any celebration. Imagine red, white and blue on July 4thand purple and gold on game days!

WaKeeney's Get Lit Campaign

Photo courtesy of Inception Lighting

Simple to install, maintain, and operate

The LED strips come in three lengths to allow for custom light placement. This means there will never be an appearance of a missing light or a need to cut one of the strips.If a light goes out, the product has a detachable lid that will enable easy replacement of only the old lights and not the entire fixture, unlike similar products. Check out this video from Inception Lighting to find out more about the installation process.

WaKeeney's Get Lit Campaing

Photo courtesy of Inception Lighting

Long-lasting brilliance and savings

Because LEDs are housed in plastic, rather than metal, they emit significantly less heat compared to all other sources of light. This feature also makes them less expensive to install and operate. And, the entire system isguaranteed to last for up to ten years! Altogether, we’re expecting the cost savings will be in the thousands of dollars, with an estimated yearly utility bill of only $300!

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Help us light up WaKeeney

There are multiple ways you can contribute to the “Get Lit” campaign. A Go Fund Me campaignhas been set up for online contributions and the same shirts you may have seen being sold at the fair are also available at The Studio 128 (128 Main St.), and Heartland Foods (401 Russell Ave). And,just like our famous Christmas lights, they come in six colors—red, green, yellow, grey, royal blue, and purple. They have the “Christmas City of the High Plains logo on the front, and the “Get Lit” logo on the back and sell for $12 in S-XL and $15 for 2X.

Stop by The Studio 128 or go to their Facebook pageor stop by Heartland Foods to purchase shirts for you, your friends, and your family to help us “Get Lit” in Downtown WaKeeney!

Special Memories Made Under the Lights of the Christmas City of the High Plains

It’s inevitable that over time, treasured traditions become the beautiful memories we cherish forever. In Trego County our most special Christmas remembrances begin at the Annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony in Downtown WaKeeney.

Downtown Christmas Tree & Decorations

Our citizens look forward all year to the moment when we gather together at the base of our 35-foot tree to herald in the Christmas Season. This year’s celebration was made even more special when we were joined by two descendants of Art Keraus, one of the originators of our famous holiday decorations.

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A Special Guest


During a trip to Denver in the 1940s, my father saw a similar, smaller tree

and modeled this one after it.” 

-Margaret Magill


Margaret Magill, now 89, and her nephew Doug Wiedeman traveled from her home in Denver to WaKeeney to Fulfill her long-held wish of turning on the 6,800 red, yellow, blue, green and purple lights that illuminate our street throughout the holiday season.

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Magill has spent many Christmases in WaKeeney over the decades, but had never attended the lighting ceremony until this year. While she was here she shared stories with us of the many conversations she’d had with her father about the construction of the tree and it’s 3-miles of electrical cords and 1100-yards of fresh greenery, giving us yet another perspective into the story of our Western Kansas town.

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A New Generation of Memories


“It’s nice to feel a part of the legacy that my grandfather left with this town,

that is still here today,” Wiedeman said. “And (the town) has expanded on it.”

-Doug Wiedeman


For over six decades, community volunteers have come together to conduct repairs and repaint the many elements that make up our display, and they’ve taken the initiative to add onto what Art and its other creator, Jake Heckman, built so long ago.

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This year, their attention turned to repainting the mural at Main Street’s North Pole Park. Originally painted in 1999 by Laurie Albin, it had begun to succumb to the elements, but after a combined effort between volunteers and Albin it is better and brighter than ever. More upgrades were made to Santa’s little house inside the park—new paint, carpet and curtains, a faux fireplace and a new Christmas tree. And, now it is ready for Ol’St. Nick and the many children who come to visit him, both naughty and nice.

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Make WaKeeney and its beautiful Christmas tree part of your family’s holiday tradition and you’ll begin collecting our own treasured memories of the Christmas City of the High Plains!

Christmas Comes to the High Plains in WaKeeney, Kansas

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Sleigh bells, carols, and—what’s that I hear? Why, it’s the beep, beep, beep of utility trucks as their teams of workers get busy stringing up the lights of our famous Christmas tree!

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Soon WaKeeney’s Main Street will be festooned with the bright lights and fragrant greenery that turns our town into the Christmas City of the High Plains. Once completed, our 35-foot tree will be the centerpiece of our annual Christmas Festival.

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We start the holiday season off at 10 AM on Saturday, November 26 with the Annual Christmas Bazaar held at the fairgrounds. The Trego County Home Based Business Association sponsors this event and shoppers will find a variety of handmade items, food vendors, a lunch stand, and door prizes awaiting them.

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Later that evening, follow the glow of 6,800 colored lights to Downtown WaKeeney for the largest Christmas display between Kansas City and Denver. There will be music, horse drawn wagon rides, shopping, special holiday treats for the kids, a community soup supper, and a live nativity scene sponsored by Prairie Faith Shared Ministry with animals from Wolf’s Petting Zoo of Russell. The evening culminates with Santa as he flips the switch on our historic Christmas tree. It’s a beautiful moment where our citizens come together to sing carols and wish each other peace and goodwill in the truest spirit of community.

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Afterwards, take your children by the hand and follow Santa to his house at our own Main Street “North Pole.” Santa will be ready to hear all the things they have on their Christmas list, no matter how long it is. But be warned, he may have his “naughty” list with him!

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Join all of us in Downtown WaKeeney Saturday, November 26th, the Saturday after Thanksgiving for our annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. Then stick around and enjoy all the activities and holiday shopping you’ll find in the Christmas City of the High Plains!