Free ice skating, the Trail of Lights and other holiday traditions continue as the days until Christmas and the new year count down. Home for the Holidays is loaded with tradition, with the annual event kicking off with a busy Saturday, Nov. 26 in and around Jack Kilby Square and a parade in downtown Great Bend.
Explore Great Bend invites shoppers to check out the open houses and other specials in the downtown business district on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.
Some must-see items on the Saturday morning schedule:
The Golden Belt Humane Society’s “Dogs Day Out” from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. offers the chance to enjoy Sloppy Joes and walk a shelter dog at Jack Kilby Square. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., check out the Great Bend Cookie Contest by starting at Rosewood Furniture Gallery at 1607 Main.
Parade and more at Jack Kilby Square
The annul Home for the Holidays Parade at 5:30 p.m. kicks off a host of things to see and do at Jack Kilby Square. Along with the annual lighting of the Mayor’s tree by Great Bend Mayor Cody Schmidt, the ice skating rink has been decked out for an ice sculpting demonstration by Reverend Butter and a fire bending performance by Phlox Fire.
Free ice skating
Great Bend’s ice skating rink in Jack Kilby Square is unique as it’s not real ice. However, any ice skates can be used and are available to borrow during open hours: Thursdays and Fridays from 4-6 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays from 1-6 p.m.
Great Director of Public Lands Scott Keeler noted that the rink area next to the band shell is almost set up to get ready for the weekend.
“We still have some decorating to do, but we will be ready for the weekend after Thanksgiving,” Keeler said. “The ice sculptors will be actually out on the ice (Saturday), so we need to set up the spectators’ perimeter for safety issues. Then we’ll have the fire dancers.”
After the shows, the rink will be ready for skating, Keeler said. “It will be pretty much the same as usual.”
The annual activity has been going on for around 15 years. “The COVID slowed things way down and we didn’t have it at all that first year,” Keeler said. Last year it was open with social distancing restrictions.
The ice is a hard synthetic plastic that works really well as a rink base, Keeler noted. “People can bring their own skates or we have some that they can use.”
Trail of Lights
There are still some open slots for volunteers to staff the “Wild Lights” booth at Brit Spaugh Park for the annual Trail of Lights, noted Great Bend Community Coordinator Christina Hayes. Beginning at the courthouse square, the trail’s annual circuit traverses 10th Street West to K-96, where the Christmas nativity is set up; northwest to Veterans Memorial Park for Lights on the Lake, then east down Broadway to Williams Street. A jog north then brings sightseers to Brit Spaugh Park’s booth for their “Wild Lights” display.
“We would love to have anyone who wants to greet the cars,” Hayes said. “We do take donations, and we give out great little goody bags saying, ‘Welcome to Great Bend, thanks for checking out our lights.’”
Groups of at least two people are needed to sign up to volunteer. Along with greeting the vehicles, the volunteers keep track of the number of cars and which state the cars are from as they pass through the Wild Lights at Brit Spaugh Park.
“It will be every evening from 6-8 p.m.,” Hayes said. “We have open dates still from Nov. 29 all the way through Dec. 23. It is first-come, first-serve to the volunteers; when they choose a date, we fill it, and it fills pretty fast.”
Anyone interested in volunteering can email Hayes at email@example.com.
Santas Around the World
Rosewood’s Santas Around the World at 1223 Main features about two dozen life-sized Santas as known in countries around the world, created by local artist Loretta Miller. There is no admission charged for this exhibit, but a freewill donation to Rosewood Roots and Wings Foundation is requested. The exhibit is open Thursdays and Fridays from 4-6 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 1-6 p.m. Appointments may be scheduled outside of those hours by calling Rosewood Roots & Wings Foundation Office at 620-603-6502.
The Santas are cared for and maintained by a special group of dedicated “Santa Friends,” and are often hosted by volunteers from the Retired Senior Volunteer Program.
“We’re running the exhibits the same as we’ve done for the last decade,” noted Rosewood’s Public Relations and Marketing Director Michael Dawes. “We’re starting the evening of the Christmas Parade and will run through Dec. 23.” Dawes noted that a possible new exhibit was in the works for this year.
It’s also the third year for Rosewood’s Christmas Window Decorating Contest. About 26 participating decorators have already been signed up by the Nov. 11 deadline and are getting ready for the decorating deadline of Nov. 21.
This year has a new twist, Dawes said. “In the past we’ve had three awards and we’ve got three awards again this year,” he said. “But the top award of $1,500 to the window winner will be by people’s choice. So, the public is going to be voting on that. We hope that it will add an air of excitement to the contest, where people can have their own say in what window they think is best.”
Rosewood judges will be then viewing from Nov. 22 to Dec. 2 for their first- and second-place awards, of $1,000 and $500, respectively.
Part of the challenge of the contest is that the participants have to come up with different ideas every year, Dawes said. “That’s a challenge, but I do think that having the people’s choice this year is really going to provide a burst of energy into the contest. Having those really good ideas on display is going to get people wanting to come downtown and take notice of our holiday spirit in Great Bend.”