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City already eyeing Christmas 2016
Trail of Lights saw fewer visitors last year
new deh trail of lights update pic
Over 1,300 vehicles from all over Kansas and around the country passed through the Great Bend Trail of Lights this past Christmas season. - photo by Tribune file photo

 The holidays have passed and the city’s Trail of Lights decorations are in storage. So, now is a time to reflect on the 2015 Christmas season, Great Bend Community Coordinator Christina Hayes said.

She gave an update to the City Council Monday night, running through the holidays by the numbers. “We were significantly down from last year,” she said.

There were 1,257 cars from 37 of the state’s 105 counties, most from Barton with 1,092 and Pawnee with 30. There were also 21 states and the District of Columbia represented, with the most being recorded from Kansas at 1,257, followed by Texas and Colorado, each with nine.

The total was 1,309, which is down 867 from 2014.

These figures are by no means complete. Some visitors didn’t drive through the Brit Spaugh entrance where the count was taken, and some of the cars were missed when they passed through and some people visited when there was no one to keep track.

There were a couple of likely reasons for the decline, she said. 

First was the ice storm that hit the first weekend the Trail of Lights was to be open, a time when there are historically between 1-2,000 spectators. It also forced the cancelation of the Home for the Holidays Christmas parade and other activities.

Second was a change in hours. This year, volunteers manned the Brit Spaugh trail entrance from 6-8 p.m., instead of 6-9 p.m., meaning some cars may have not been counted.

On the high side, Hayes said the took in $3,000 in donations. “That will all go back into the lights.”

Hayes said all wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the of city personnel who begin in November putting up the decorations.

“tThe Park Department does such a wonderful job at making the community beautiful,” she said. It takes a lot of work to put the many decorations up and, after Christmas, take them back down.

It also would not be possible with the residents who, on their own time, greet visitors and hand out visitor bags.

“The city really appreciates the people who volunteer their time and energy to be greeters at the Trail of Lights booth,” she said. “We appreciate it for many reasons but the main ones include having bright and shiny faces to greet the spectators and answer any questions, but also to collect the donations that go right back to our  light fund so we can continue to upkeep our lights and make it bigger and better.” 

She is already looking to this year’s holiday season. “The city would love to have volunteers that can contact me and I can put them on an interested list for next year if they are wanting to help out.”