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Holiday traditions in downtown Great Bend
Free ice skating in the park
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The Mayor’s Christmas Tree is on the south side of the Barton County Courthouse.

Free ice skating, the Trail of Lights and other Great Bend holiday traditions continue as the days until Christmas and the new year count down.

In addition to today’s Vespers Concert and Youth Choir Concert at the Great Bend High School Auditorium, Sunday, Dec. 9, is the Barton County Historical Society’s annual “Ghosts of Christmas Past” open house.

The Trail of Lights includes the “12 Days of Christmas” at Veterans Memorial Park, Christmas Nativity at 10th Street and K-96, “Wild Lights” at Brit Spaugh Park and Zoo, the Kilby Square lights in the Barton County Courthouse Square, and lights at the Great Bend Historical Society Museum and Village, south of the Arkansas River bridge at 85 South U.S. 281.

The historical society has several Christmas trees decorated by area groups. “Ghosts of Christmas Past” takes place from 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Regular winter hours at the museum and village are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

The Santas Around the World exhibit at 1223 Main features two dozen life-sized Santas created by local artist Loretta Miller. Admission is charged for this exhibit, but there is no charge to come in and meet the real Santa when he observes his Great Bend “office hours.” He is there Thursdays and Fridays from 4-6 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 1-6 p.m.

Michael Menzer, who sometimes fills in for Santa, said Richard Fox gave him his start playing the role. He’s met all kinds of children over the past five years. “Some won’t sit on my lap,” he said, but he has candy canes for everyone. Santa invites parents to stop by and bring their cameras. “Usually you’ll get a good picture.”

The Golden Belt Model Railroad Association has a display set up at 1350 Main, in what used to be the Hallmark store. Association President Mark Orth said they will be there from 4-7 p.m. on the next two Thursdays, Dec. 13 and 20.

Model trains and Christmas just seem to go together, Orth said. They used to be a popular Christmas present; “the dads bought them for their kids to they could play with them.” An N gauge train runs beneath a Christmas tree.

Association member Ken Shelton said there are several sizes of trains and village layouts to view, including N, HO, S, O and G. The Golden Belt Model Railroad Association meets at 7:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday and third Monday of each month in the basement of the First United Methodist Church, 2123 Forest Ave.  

Across the street from Santa and the trains in the Barton County Courthouse Square, the artificial ice rink is set up for free ice skating. Even the skates are free and they are available in children’s size 9 up to adults size 13, said Careen Adams, a City of Great Bend employee. The skate booth is open Thursdays and Friday from 4-8 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 1-6 p.m., through Dec. 29.