Put a trip to WaKeeney on your holiday schedule. The town, which sits on I-70 halfway between Kansas City and Denver, is home to one of the biggest Christmas lights displays in the region. Now calling itself the “Christmas City of the High Plains,” WaKeeney residents have built an identity on their 61-year tradition of decking the downtown with decorations.The display itself is a tradition which has gone virtually unchanged since the mid-1950s. It includes over three-miles of lights wired through the downtown area. As a centerpiece, you will find a 35-foot tall Christmas tree created with fresh greenery sitting in the middle of the intersection at Main and Russell Avenue. The tree’s unique design was created in 1950 by two local merchants with a vision to make Christmas-time memorable in the town. It is rebuilt each year with hundreds of volunteer hours. WaKeeney’s display, which also features thousands of lights, requires about 1,400 pounds of fresh greenery for the tree and additional decorations along a four-block area of the downtown. Other wooden painted stars, bells, bows and wreaths also line the avenue.To complete your WaKeeney holiday experience, stop for a bite to eat at the Western Kansas Saloon and Grill. This restaurant is housed in the restored Keraus Hardware store. Art Keraus and Jake Heckman created original designs for the tree and other decorations still used in the display in the basement of this store. The restaurant has a Christmas tree in the front window year-round as a tribute to the town’s celebrated tradition. The Western Kansas Saloon and Grill is open evenings from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm for dinner. On Saturdays, it is open from 5:00 pm to 9:30 pm. If you are there earlier in the day, you can catch lunch from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm Tuesday through Saturday.What: “The Christmas City of the High Plains” display - WaKeeneyWhen: The Saturday after Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day.Time: Dusk until 10:00 pmWhere: Downtown WaKeeney
Becky Blake is the Director of Tourism Division of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism, and has been involved in the Kansas tourism industry for the past 30 years. The TravelKS Blog provides a brief update from Becky each week, featuring communities, events and attractions throughout the state.