Saturday holiday activities listed
Christmas time in Great Bend starts Saturday with a full slate of activities downtown and around the community.
The day includes:
• The Christmas cookie contest runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 16 participating business locations with a chance to vote for the best cookies in town. The winners will be announced following the parade.
• The Home for the Holidays Parade starts at 5:30 p.m. followed by the mayor’s tree lighting at 6:15 p.m. This year, Great Bend’s Mayor-elect Joe Andrasek will do the tree-lighting honors, as well as draw the name of the cookie contest winner.
• The lighting of the square takes place at 6:30 p.m., opening the Trail Of Lights.
• Also that night, there will be the living Nativity portraits, free horse-drawn carriage rides and train rides, and free hot dogs, funnel cakes and hot cocoa on the square. Santa will begin his visits at 1223 Main.
• The ice skating rink will also open in Jack Kilby Square. Skating will also be available Saturday after the parade. From then on, free skate rental will be available from 4-8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays and from 1-6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
• Starting Saturday, Santa Claus will make appearances from 4-6 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and from 1-6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at 1223 Main.
Nov. 25 will be Small Business Saturday with Black Friday specials.
This year, Santa will be portrayed by Mike Menzer, who has been one of the city Santas for the past six years.
Randy and Sandy Smith, who portrayed Santa and Mrs. Claus at Christmas in Great Bend for decades, will serve as the grand marshals for the Home for the Holidays Parade Saturday night, Community Coordinator Christina Hayes said.
The annual honor goes to local residents who have made a significant impact on the city, Hayes said. It only seemed fitting to recognize the Smiths for what they’ve done.
“They definitely want to be known as Santa’s elves,” Hayes said. The parade is set for 5:30 p.m. Saturday as part of a day full of activities in downtown Great Bend to welcome the Christmas season.
“We’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” Randy said of their years playing the Claus couple. “It’s been fun.”
But, being the grand marshals is sort of bittersweet, he said. They’ve donned the red garb for so long that it may be tough sitting out this Christmas.
“The fun part is giving back and making those kids smile,” Randy said.
About Mr. and Mrs. Claus
The Smith delighted children and their families for years – Randy for 49 years and Sandy for 34 years. They visited homes on Christmas Eve, have been in several retail businesses over the years, and participate in community events like the parade.
The Smiths never charged for their seasonal appearances. Instead, they accepted donations and gave the money to an organization, charity or to a family in need.
Both Santa and Mrs. Claus agree they always think they have heard it all when the children take to Santa’s lap. But they are continually surprised. “It is amazing to listen to these kids.”
The Smiths grew up here. And they said portraying honored visitors from the North Pole for the community has given the them lots of special Christmas memories.
“You can’t believe the feeling. You are giving, eyes brighten. It is watching the families and the kids’ smiles. The greatest gift of all is love and a hug,” Randy said. “You can have somebody that is down and out, and you want to make them smile.”
Sandy retired from Rosewood Gallery in 2010. Randy retired from teaching criminal justice classes at Barton Community College three years.
Smith was a 50-year law enforcement veteran, including 26 years with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. That included working homicides and going undercover. Being Santa is a “stress reliever,” said Randy. It is a welcome experience “to see the other side” of life. And, they both love the kids.
Randy and Sandy played their alter egos for two generations of families. Even though Randy will put the suit away for most of the season, he may pull it out for a couple appearances this year.
Sandy has had some health problems that prevent her from taking part this year, Randy said. But, he didn’t rule out reprising the role next Christmas.