CLAFLIN - Preparations have begun in Claflin for the town’s annual Christmas Tree lighting and holiday festival Sunday, Dec. 4. Different this year will be the location the ceremony will take place. After the city finalized the acquisition of a vacant corner lot on Main Street in October, plans were made to move the focal point of the celebration from the vacant lot north of the city’s grocery store. Sunday evening, visitors and residents alike will meet at the corner of Albro and Main Streets to ring in the holidays in style.
A new home for the tree isn’t the only thing different this year. This will be the first year that the city will display a new manger scene, commissioned by Claflin Area Pride, which will be set up next to the tree.
Claflin Area Pride is the result of a 2014 experiment in which Claflin merchants partnered with the Ellinwood Chamber of Commerce to operate a shared Chamber of Commerce. The goal was to build connection between the two communities. Eventually, the communities determined that Claflin would benefit more from an independent community organization rather than a Chamber of Commerce, so the experiment ended on a good note, and volunteers began raising funds and making plans to support their community.
One of the first items the group wished to provide the city with was a nativity scene. Earlier this year, they ordered one, but weren’t pleased once it arrived. They began asking around, and eventually commissioned Roger Agnew, Great Bend, to create the new scene. It includes 14 life-sized figures, and made of wood is expected to last many years, CAP board member Becky Wasson said.
A new tradition
Through that partnership, members determined the community could be drawn together through traditions and events. It had been years since a community tree had been lit, Claflin Mayor Mike Urban said. That year, the community decided to change that, and a ceremony was arranged. A tree was brought in and erected with permission on the vacant lot across from the Independence Township Library. That same year, the Central Plains football team had recently won the State Championship. Not only would Santa Claus make a stop in Claflin, but Urban would recognize the players at the event.
It was a good start, and at the time, Urban envisioned the event growing and becoming a community tradition. But for that to happen and for it to grow, the city would need to find a more permanent location to hold the event. The new community center at the former Claflin Grade School was considered, but the ideal location would be on Main Street as close to Claflin businesses as possible. Earlier this year, the stars aligned, and the city had the opportunity to secure a corner lot, across the street from the community center, at the north end of the Main Street business district. The city council acted quickly, and the sale to the city was approved in October.
Claflin businessman Bill Miller donated the tree and Millers of Claflin delivered it in time for city workers to erect it Tuesday. The new manger scene was also assembled, and city workers made sure lights for both would be installed and ready for Sunday’s event.
Leading up to the main event, other activities are planned for the day, starting with an arts and crafts sale, kids games and raffles at the Claflin Community Center from 2 to 6 p.m. Boy Scouts will be leading the games, and Girl Scouts will sing Christmas carols.
Santa Claus will drop by the center at 3 p.m. to visit with the boys and girls. After his initial greeting, he will move outside to where two teams of Clydesdales will be waiting. While one is providing wagon rides for the kids, he will be visiting with kids in the other and allowing parents to take photographs of the occasion.
Hams and turkeys will be raffled off, and proceeds from the tickets will go to a CAP community sign project. Already, funds raised have paid for the first of two city signs that will be placed at either end of the city along K-4. Free blood pressure checks will also be given at the center.
From 2 to 7 p.m. at the Independence Township Library, Claflin’s’ friends of the library will host Sweets by the Pound. It is the only fundraiser for the library all year, Wasson said. Shoppers can satisfy their sweet tooth, purchasing baked goods and candy, all while listening to live music.
Then, from 5 to 7 p.m., a community chili supper will be held at the community center. Freewill donations will be accepted. The Christmas tree and Nativity lighting will happen at 7:30 p.m.
Wasson is excited to see Claflin coming together through these CAP efforts. This first event at the city’s newly acquired property will be gratifying, but the vision includes much more. Future plans are to put up a nice gazebo set, where the community can have events, where families can reserve it for gatherings, and where people can simply take a load off and rest, she said.
This story was updated on Dec. 1 to clarify the event date of Dec. 4 and correct the spelling of the name Becky Wasson, a board member of Claflin Area Pride.