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GBRC to host Santa’s Workshop Express in December
Annual event revised this year for safety
Santa's Workshop Route
Pictured is the planned drive-through route for the revised Santa’s Workshop Express on Dec. 5 at the Great Bend Activity Center. To maintain proper traffic flow, it is proposed that traffic enter on 17th Street off of Washington Street, and exit off of 18th Street back onto Washington Street. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

Like many events this year, the 24th Annual Santa’s Workshop, this year dubbed the Santa’s Workshop Express, will have a different, but the goal for the Great Bend Recreation Commission remains the same – to spread a little bit of holiday cheer to Great Bend children and families during difficult times.

This year, Santa’s Workshop will be held as a drive-through event at the Great Bend Activity Center, 2715 18th St., from 1-2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5. Executive Director Diann Henderson updated the GBRC board on the progress of preparations for the revised event at the board’s monthly board meeting Monday, Nov. 9.

In previous years, the event has been held in the evenings at the City Auditorium at the Rec Center facility on Stone Street, with plenty of activities for children and families. Henderson said previously the commission still wanted to carry on the Great Bend holiday tradition, but knew it would have to look different due to COVID-19.

“It’s going to be enjoyed by everyone in the comfort of their vehicles,” she said. “They can turn on their heaters and enjoy Santa’s Workshop.”

Enrichment Director Garet Fitzpatrick is working with the Great Bend Student Council and their sponsor, Kelli Henderson, to transform the activity for safe participation but still provide plenty of fun for attendees. 

Though much about the event will be different, Santa Claus and the Grinch will still be making appearances. Santa will also once again have (masked) student helpers from Great Bend High School assisting him in bringing joy to the attendees.

Henderson said she is grateful for the participation of the volunteers from both the high school and several other organizations, both during the event, and organizing the event prior to it.

“It takes a lot of man hours/woman hours to put all the bags together,” she said. 

The current plan is to have multiple stops on the route on the north (18th Street) side of the Activity Center with giveaways, with the total experience lasting around five minutes per vehicle, Henderson said.

Henderson said they have been working with the Great Bend Police Department and the Street Department to finalize a route that will minimize traffic impact within the neighborhood surrounding the Activity Center. At this point, the proposed route has vehicles entering westbound on 17th Street off of Washington Street, and exiting off of 18th Street back onto Washington Street.

Prior to the event, they will ask the Great Bend City Council to approve the closure of 18th Street on the north side of the Activity Center to one-way traffic only during the event.

“We appreciate the city’s assistance in that, and suggestions for that,” she said.

Families are encouraged to get in on the fun by wearing holiday pajamas or “ugly Christmas sweaters” to the event and decorating the passenger side of their vehicles for a photo stop along the route, which will be shared on GBRC’s social media page.

Children are also encouraged to bring their Letters to Santa Claus to the event, for which the Rec Commission will have a mailbox on-site, with the letters to be delivered to the North Pole following the event.

Henderson said work on Santa’s Workshop Express is still progressing, and stops are still being planned and added to make the event as festive and memorable for children and families as possible.

Because the event is being held outdoors this year, Henderson said it will be canceled in the event of inclement weather. The use of masks will be recommended outdoors during the event.

Commissioner Sue Cooper thanked Rec staff for the work in putting on the event again this year.

“The Kiwanis parade went over really well, and it gives the opportunity for kids to still get out and celebrate, but celebrate safely,” Cooper said. “Things have to look a little different, but they can still be fun.”

Tennis court project update

Henderson also advised the board she and GBRC Assistant Superintendent Chris Umphres held a pre-construction meeting with Concrete Service LLC, the concrete contractor for the tennis court repair project; Eldridge Fencing, the fencing contractor for the project; and Great Bend Public Lands Director Scott Keeler to lay out a timeline and coordinate construction schedules for the tennis court project, because the concrete work and fencing work will be completed concurrently.

Henderson said the materials for needed for the projects are on order and, with schedules in place, she is hopeful work will begin on the project around Thanksgiving, weather permitting. The goal for project completion remains Feb. 1, 2021, in time for scholastic spring practices to begin. She does not expect the project to take that long, but the timeline allows for any potential delays that might come up during the project.

Henderson said both Veterans Park tennis courts will be closed to the public during the construction process.

In Other Business:

- Aquatics and Enrichment Director Megan Hammeke provided an update on special needs programs. The Halloween Dance was canceled in October, and Hammeke anticipates the cancelation of the annual Thanksgiving Dance as well due to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases. She also provided an updated on programs at the Great Bend Senior Center.

- Assistant Superintendent Chris Umphres provided an update on the upcoming winter rec basketball season.

- Umphres informed the board about the upcoming pickleball tournament at the Panther Activity Center at Great Bend High School Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 14 -15. Mens and womens tournaments will be held on Saturday, and the mixed doubles tournament will be Sunday.

- Umphres announced the youth sports survey will be moved online this year through Survey Monkey. He hopes this will increase parent feedback on youth sports programs.

- Commissioners heard a report regarding the participation of administrative staff in the virtual National Recreation and Park Association conference in October.

- The board approved the disposal of old office chairs following the purchase of new office chairs for GBRC office staff.

- The board approved the renewal of the annual Adobe Creative Cloud software licensing subscription for 2021 in the amount of $6,150.

- Executive Director Diann Henderson advised the board that GBRC facilities will be closed Thursday, Nov. 26 through Sunday, Nov. 29 for the Thanksgiving holiday.

- The Executive Director’s Evaluation document was presented to commissioners to be filled out and reviewed at the December meeting.