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Great Bend hosts Home for the Holidays fest
Ice Sculptor 2022
Reverend Butter carves an ice sculpture for an admiring audience at Jack Kilby Square in Great Bend Saturday. - photo by BY DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

Great Bend Community Coordinator Christina Hayes was busy all day Saturday. After the noon walk in the park with the animals sponsored by the Golden Belt Humane Society over the lunch hour and picking up Explore Great Bend contest boxes, she was ready to start staging parade entries at the Brit Spaugh Park and Zoo. During the day, she was crossing her fingers that the weather, spitting sprinkles from an overcast November sky, would hold out. “Just a few hours longer, then it can rain,” she said. 

Saturday was a big day for the Great Bend community. In addition to the annual Home for the Holidays Festival and Parade, the event marked 150 years of Great Bend in history. The Home for the Holidays event has been happening annually since 2006.

The theme paid homage to the city’s 150th anniversary this year – “150 Years of Celebration,” Hayes said. Former City Attorney Bob Suelter served as grand marshal.

“Not a lot is different about prepping, but what’s different this year is that it’s our city’s 150th, so the theme is ‘150 years of Celebration,’ Hayes noted. “The after of the parade is what’s different. This year spectators were treated to ice sculptures by Reverend Butter and a fire bending performance by Phlox Fire. “It’s a ‘fire and ice festival,’” she said. What’s special about the combined performance at the skating rink set up in Jack Kilby Square is that it won’t happen again for several years.

“So this year, it’s like ‘The Big Bang.’ Reverend Butter was at last year’s annual parade event after Hayes spent 10 years recruiting them to Great Bend. “Everybody loved them,” she noted.

Partners in making the festival happen served the free items again this year (hot cocoa, hotdogs and funnel cakes) and the window decorating contest was back with great prizes for the businesses. Rosewood Service’s Christmas Cookie Contest was also a draw.

Meanwhile, parade entries began arriving at the park around 4 p.m. Hayes, armed with the obligatory clipboard and necessary bullhorn, directed the entries to four staging areas, where they could park, unload and finish setting up. This year’s parade had 32 listed entries, with several entries having multiple moving pieces. “So altogether, there is about 50 moving down Main Street,” she said. “That’s a pretty good number for a parade, especially one right after Thanksgiving.”

Going as planned

Golden Belt Humane Society’s “Dogs’ Day Out” over the extended lunch hour Saturday was a hit for the canines and humans alike. The November chill didn’t bother the dogs, which welcomed a brisk walk around the square. Humans were kept warm with Sloppy Joes  — with or without chili — in between the band shell and skating rink. Several dogs were able to find their forever homeowners during the event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Following the lighted Home for the Holidays Parade down Main Street, activities moved to the Barton County Courthouse Square. Great Bend Mayor Cody Schmidt lit the Mayor’s Christmas tree, followed by entertainment that included  “ice and fire” at the skating rink.

It was also opening night for the Trail of Lights. Beginning at the courthouse square, the trail’s annual route runs down 10th Street West to K-96, where the Christmas nativity is set up; northwest to Veterans Memorial Park for Lights on the Lake (with the 12 Days of Christmas decorations), then east down Broadway to Williams Street. A jog north then brings sightseers to Brit Spaugh Park’s booth for their “Wild Lights” display.

In addition, Rosewood Service’s Santas Around the World at 1223 Main opened. It features about two dozen life-sized Santas as known in countries around the world, created by local artist Loretta Miller.