Ceremony kicks off holiday season
On a frigid night at Veterans of Foreign Wars Park, Kelly Frantz's words warmed a group of nearly 200 people who were gathered for the Mayor's Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony.
Tonganoxie Mayor Dave Taylor invited Frantz to act as honorary tree-lighter for this year's ceremony at VFW Park, held last Thursday. Frantz's husband, Lucas, was killed in October while serving in Iraq.
Fighting back tears, Kelly Frantz said the last two months have been the most difficult of her life, but added she was thankful for the community's response after her husband's death.
"With your support, I can stand here tonight," Frantz said during a speech before lighting the tree.
Frantz appreciated the community's support of the troops in Iraq.
She spoke about Christmas and the symbolism of the holiday tree -- each light representing one person, but all connected to form the lighting of one tree. And those lights don't just represent citizens here in America, but troops serving overseas as well, she said.
At the conclusion of her speech, Frantz asked the crowd to join in a countdown before she turned the switch that lit the tree.
The ceremony got under way with Genesis Christian Academy students singing three Christmas songs: "Deck the Halls," "Angels We Have Heard on High" and "Silent Night."
A few measures into the group's rendition of "Silent Night," however, a Tonganoxie Fire Department truck proved to be a slight distraction.
With lights flashing and sirens blaring, the truck drove into the park carrying a special passenger -- Santa Claus.
St. Nick, poised on the fire truck, surrounded by children, passed out goodies.
Minutes later, Santa welcomed area residents to the former Ratliff Drug Store in downtown Tonganoxie, where the Chieftain Singers performed Christmas carols.
The Tonganoxie High School vocal music group then caroled along Fourth Street and sang inside several businesses before returning to Ratliff to perform a few final songs.
"They were very good," said Charlene Kimberlin, administrative assistant with the Tonganoxie Chamber of Commerce.
Of course, a holiday celebration wouldn't be complete without reindeer -- or at least a sheep posing as reindeer.
Aimee Ostermeyer and her brother, Jacob, brought three sheep to the tree-lighting ceremony.
Their mother, Melissa Ostermeyer, said Thursday was the first time the family had taken animals to the annual ceremony.
"I guess it was kind of a combined family decision," she said.
The three animals were Tunis sheep that Aimee and Jacob have shown at 4-H competitions.
The Ostermeyers placed antler headbands on the sheep and bell collars around the animal's necks.
Melissa Ostermeyer said children at the park seemed receptive to the animals, which she described as "gentle."
"Some of them thought they were really reindeer, and others knew they were just sheep in disguise," Ostermeyer said.