Christmas City of the High Plains
Since 1950, WaKeeney has held the title of "Christmas City of the High Plains." Each November WaKeeney is magically transformed into a holiday wonderland from the Saturday following Thanksgiving through New Year's. A magnificent handmade, 35-foot tall tree of fresh pine greenery rests under a canopy of heavenly blue lights in the middle of the main downtown intersection at Main and Russell Avenue. The canopy of blue lights radiates from the four ivory stars that crown the tree. In addition, a four-square block area around the tree is draped with fresh greenery, handcrafted wreaths, bows, and bells, and of course, more lights. The entire downtown business district is also outlined with over 2000 perimeter lights which remain lit year round. The entire display is made up of approximately 3 miles of electrical wiring, 1400 lbs. of fresh greenery, and 1100 yards of fresh greenery roping.
The original idea was born in 1948 by two local businessmen, and the first display was lit in 1950. Art Keraus, the owner of the local hardware store and "a man who could build anything," teamed up with J.H. "Jake" Heckman, the local banker and artist, to design an original Christmas display. They spent many hours of long hard work in the basement of the hardware store making sure the decorations were just right. Heckman would try out the design on cardboard, paint it, put the light bulbs in it, and then turn out the lights in the basement and sit for great lengths of time, studying it to make sure each detail would be visible and that the colors would remain true.
Many local volunteers have donated hundreds of hours in preparing for this annual event, which has become a source of pride for the community. The Christmas Tree is a tribute to the will and cooperation of the local residents. Hundreds of volunteers have worked side by side for over 50 years on a common goal and they have learned about brotherhood - one of the true meanings of Christmas.
This annual tradition is considered the largest Christmas tree and lighting display between Kansas City and Denver.