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As Christmas decorations go up, changes in store for holiday celebration
new deh christmas kickoff changes second pic web
Putting up the Mayors Christmas Tree is a tedious process involving many pieces, cords and branches. Parks Department personnel said it can be challenge, but they have it almost down to a science after all these years. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

 It is not even Thanksgiving and Christmas is over a month away, but for three weeks, the holidays have been very much on the minds of Great Bend city officials.

For nearly a month, city crews have been putting up Christmas decorations on light poles, on the Barton County Courthouse Square, at Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo and at Veterans Memorial Park, said Public Lands Director Scott Keeler. This is being done in advance of the city’s annual Christmas kickoff Saturday, Nov. 28.

On Wednesday, the Mayor’s Christmas Tree was installed in Jack Kilby Square. However, it rises from the grassy area and not from the center of the concrete plaza as in years past.

This is because of major renovations being done to the downtown park, Keeler said. The $355,000 project includes improvements to the Clayton L. Morrison Band Shell and the addition of a splash pad-style water feature.

Keeler said this effort includes the removal of the water fountain, and the relocation of the vintage World War I cannon and a time capsule buried on the city’s centennial in 1972. For now, the cannon is in storage at the zoo and the capsule remains under ground at its original spot.

So, modifications are needed to accommodate the holiday festivities, City Administrator Howard Partington said. In addition to moving the tree, the artificial ice skating rink will not be available this year and part of the parking along Lakin on the south side of the square will be taken up as a construction staging area.

As for the cannon and time capsule, one possibility is moving them to the north end of the square in the area of the Civil War soldier statue. However, Partington said a final determination has not been made.

The City Council earlier this month approved bids for improvements to the band shell and surrounding area, as well as for the construction of the splash pad. The winning bid coming from Wiens and Company of Hutchinson for $355,700.

The low bid was about $100,000 below the highest proposal.

The work will include expanding the band shell stage outwards, improving handicapped accessibility, improved access for loading and unloading, replacing the restroom roofs, landscaping, lighting and some paving. And, at the north end of the band shell plaza, the splash pad will consist of a few water spray features.

Partington said the Thelma Faye Harms Charitable Trust has contributed $300,0000 towards the renovations.

The band shell dates back to the 1920s. 

There will be a pre-construction meeting at the site Tuesday. Wiens hopes to get started by Thanksgiving and be done by May 1, 2017.