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Holidays are here
Record turnout for Saturday Christmas opening
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A child portrays the Little Drummer Boy on a float during the 2012 Great Bend Christmas Parade Saturday evening. It was one of several holiday activities that drew large crowds to downtown as the community launched the season. - photo by Dale Hogg

Chocolate Caramel Chews
(This recipe, submitted by Kustom Floor Designs, won the Holiday Cookie Bake-off on Saturday, Nov. 24.)

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour, divided
2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 1/2 cups packed brown surgar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups cold butter or margarine
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans (toasted w/ pinch of salt)
1 jar (12 ounces) caramel ice cream topping

In a bowl, combine 2 cups flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda and salt.  Cut in butter until crumbly.  Set half aside for topping.  Press the remaining crumb mixture into a greased 12-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the chocolate chips and pecans.  Whisk the caramel topping and remaining flour until smooth; drizzle over top.  Sprinkle with the reserved crumb mixture.  Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown.  cool on a wire rack for 2 hours before cutting.  Yield: about 4 1/2 dozen.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving in Great Bend came complete with sunny skies, sunny weather, and little to no wind, an inviting setting for holiday shopping and reveling.
“I’ve never seen so many people out and about in Great Bend,” said Christina Hayes, Great Bend’s community coordinator.
Small Business Saturday, the day when consumers are encouraged to remember independently owned stores and boutiques for their holiday shopping, was wildly successful this year, Hayes said, with many staying to enjoy the many draws to the downtown area and around the city.
And who could blame them? The weather was unseasonably warm, the skies were clear and the wind was practically non-existent. Everywhere there were activities and promotions to welcome them and encourage them to splurge on those must-have items on their lists. Throughout the city, retailers participated in the Holiday Cookie Bake-off sponsored by Rosewood Services. Shoppers picked up around 90 bracelets with their $5 donations for the Community Food Bank when they stopped into Perks Coffee Shop.  These gave them rights to taste or take a cookie at each participating business they visited. Shoppers submitted their votes for the People’s Choice award.
This year, the prize went to Kustom Floor Design’s Chocolate Caramel chews. Chris Bitter and her daughter, Lacey Bonine, baked the cookies.
“I was afraid if we didn’t win this year, she wouldn’t come back again and I’d be on my own,” Bitter joked.
The mother-daughter team used a recipe given to them by 11 year-old Courtney Barton, daughter of Chad Barton. “She used it for 4-H this past year,” Bitter said.
Who doesn’t love a parade?
The Home for the Holidays Parade in the evening, organized by Sunflower Diversified Services, featured many holiday characters thanks to a holiday movie theme. Each of the 25 entrants was ranked for overall presentation and theme.
“Our judges, Krista Smith, Sally O’Conner, and Rachael Mawherter noted that the Grinch was a clear winner of the holiday movie popularity contest,” said Sarah Krom, parade organizer. Straub International topped them all with the Grinch and his sleigh full of Whoville presents, reclaiming the Holiday Spirit award.
Following the parade, the winner of the $1,000 Explore Great Bend winner was announced. Christy Thompson, Hoisington, was the grand prize winner even though she was not present. Judy Foster, Great Bend, won the $250 second prize, Hayes said. Winners can contact Hayes to let her know which of the Explore Great Bend participating businesses they will use their awards at, and Hayes will arrange for the appropriate store credit to be waiting for them there.
“This way, Explore Great Bend participants can be assured the money is kept local,” Hayes said.
Around 800 free hot dogs, several hundred cups of free hot chocolate and a packed ice skating rink are further indicators of how the public came out en mass for the event. That night, Trail of Lights volunteers counted 333 cars passing through the main entrance at the south end of Brit Spaugh Park to pick up a map and leave a donation that helps pay costs of maintaining the displays from year to year.
“Everyone involved deserves a huge kudos for all they did,” Hayes said.