Switch works; Tonganoxie turns on its holiday lights
With the flip of a candy cane switch, Mayor Mike Vestal's anxieties were eased.
Nervous that something was going to go terribly wrong, Vestal was excited when the switch was flipped Thursday night and downtown and the new Mayor's Christmas Tree were lit up with holiday lights.
"This was the first time we've had it downtown, and I thought we had a very good turnout," Vestal said. "I was glad to see a lot of people made it out here."
For 23 years, residents of Tonganoxie have gathered to celebrate the annual tree lighting. For many of those years, the tree ceremony was in the park next to the pool. The festivities moved to the VFW Park after it opened and stayed there until this year.
For 2007, the tree lighting and holiday celebration moved to the open space between Bitler's BBQ and Richard Dean's office. Along with a new location the tree itself is new too. In October, the City Council voted to purchase the 18-foot tall artificial tree for $5,144. The cost included replacement bulbs and shipping.
"I was very impressed with the new tree," said Keyta Kelly, a rural Tonganoxie resident who was with her husband, City Attorney Mike Kelly, on Thursday to watch the tree lighting. "Something like that shows that Tonganoxie has pride in itself. I think it was an excellent investment for the city."
Before the lights came on the crowd was entertained by performances from the Tonganoxie Jazz Band, Tonganoxie High School singers, dancers from Starstruck Dance Studio, Genesis Christian Academy kindergarteners and fourth-grade singers from Tonganoxie Elementary School.
After the lights came on, the crowd united in singing "Santa Clause is Coming to Town," which drew an appearance from St. Nick himself. Instead of being pulled in by Rudolph and a team of reindeer, Santa was brought in by the Tonganoxie City Fire Department in one of its trucks.
After handing out some toys to girls and boys, Santa made his way to Ratliff's Drug Store, where he listened to the Christmas wishes of youngsters and had his picture taken with them.
Avery Moritz, 7, wanted a pair of moon shoes. Her sister, Aspen, wanted a horse. Garrett Sullivan, 6, wanted a motorized scooter.
And for those who wanted to remind Santa of what they wanted, there was a mailbox just for letters going to the North Pole.
"I thought Thursday night's ceremony was wonderful," said Cheryl Hanback, executive director of the Tonganoxie Chamber of Commerce. "The chamber is so thankful to all the people who helped it be such a huge success. We were very pleased with the huge turnout. We have a few improvements to make. We promise it will be even better next year."