Tree lighting to encourage holiday spirit
Two days after Thanksgiving, the Tonganoxie community will welcome the Christmas season with the annual Chamber of Commerce Mayor’s Christmas Tree Lighting.
The event from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday will give residents and Thanksgiving weekend visitors the opportunity to catch up with old friends, do some Christmas shopping, enjoy the event’s traditional activities and encourage holiday spirit with mulitiple opportunities to help the less fortunate in the community.
Tonganoxie Chamber of Commerce Director Susan Freemyer said Santa Claus will arrive at the event in the back of a fire truck at dusk, and shortly afterward Mayor Jason Ward will light the community Christmas tree on the south side of the 400 block of East Fourth Street.
Santa will then be available for photographs with children at the former Ratliff Drug Store on the 500 block of East Fourth Street, but there will be plenty of activities for older residents to enjoy, as well.
Freemyer said free horse-drawn carriage rides will be available again and the list of entertainers includes Tonganoxie Elementary School singers, musicians Kevin Sanders and Paul Mast, Graves Dance Studio students performing to music from “Grinch” and disc jockey Bob Norris.
Children will be able to participate in a scavenger hunt at participating businesses, collecting cards to drop at Vintage Soap and Bath or the DJ stand for a chance to win prizes in a drawing, Freemyer said.
The event will also mark the start of the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Project, a campaign Ward started last year in conjunction with the tree lighting to raise awareness and consolidate holiday food and fundraising for the Good Shepherd Thrift Store.
Satisfied with the response to the first project last year, Ward is hoping for bigger and better things this year.
“I think we learned some things as far as timing and how well people responded,” Ward said. “I thought the fact we had the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Lighting as a way to start the season was a great way to introduce it and get it out in front of the community.”
Donations of non-perishable items will be collected at the tree lighting this year at a drop-off near the community tree. In addition, residents will be able to drop items in grocery carts at participating businesses through Dec. 13.
Ward said businesses were still being approached about placing shopping carts.
“The thought was we would follow up after the holiday (Thanksgiving),” he said.
The project is also seeking individuals and business to sponsor families in need for the holiday. Those interested in adopting a family or making donations of food, cash and gift certificates can make those arrangements during regular business hours of 9 a.m. to noon Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at Good Shepherd, 304 E. Fourth St.
The Chamber is also sponsoring a silent auction for wreaths, Freemyer said. Wreath kits have been distributed to participating businesses, which will be decorated with the theme of “Cowboy Christmas.” Those with winning bids will be informed Dec. 9 so that they can display the wreaths during the holiday season, Freemyer said.
All profits from the wreath sales will be given to the thrift shop, Freemyer said.
In addition, the Tonganoxie Police Department and the Henri Masonic Lodge 190 Temple will have a toy drive starting at Saturday’s tree lighting and continuing through Dec. 13.