Great Bend’s annual Home for the Holidays parade and activities brought a crowd downtown on Saturday.
After a morning and early afternoon of perfect shopping weather, the temperature began to drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind gusts increased to 50 mph. But there was more fun in store for those who braved the elements for the lighted parade as the sun set.
The 11th Annual Great Bend Cookie Contest started in the morning. Participants could sample cookies from 24 participating business locations and vote for the best cookies in town. A donation of $5 was suggested for all participating judges, with the proceeds going to the Food Bank of Barton County.
When the Cookie Contest was originally created, it was intended as a community service project with the money raised going to a charitable cause, said Michael Dawes with Rosewood Services. (Roosewood Furniture Gallery served as Coolie Headquarters.)
“Most of the time, the money has gone to the Food Bank,” Dawes said. “A lot of people are doing food drives this time of year but we’re told January is when they get as many or more requests. A monetary donation allows the Food Bank to purchase items that may not have been donated; the money just gives them a lot of latitude.”
Entire families turned out for the shopping and cookies, which was also a boost for downtown shops on Small Business Saturday.
“I think everybody who’s participating with it is having a lot of fun,” said Diana Dawson, at Renue Salon & Boutique.
The lighted parade got underway at 5:30 p.m. with Diann Henderson, executive director of the Great Bend Recreation Commission, serving as grand marshal. Santa was also in the parade and hung around afterward to meet boys and girls.
“It’s a good opportunity to kick off the holidays,” said City Coordinator Christina Hayes, who reminded residents that the Trail of Lights is also lit. The lighted parade has grown to 50 entries, including one entry alone featured 20 cars.
After the parade, Mayor Joe Andrasek lit the Mayor’s Christmas tree in the courthouse square, signaling the start of activities: ice skating, train rides, wagon and carriage rides, funnel cakes, hot dogs and hot chocolate were all free.
Winners of the Cookie Contest and the Explore Great Bend drawings, which included prizes of $1,000, $500 and $250, were also drawn.