Purchase photos

Downtown tree lighting makes spirits bright




The third annual Bright Friday tree lighting ceremony ushered in the Christmas season at the historic Chestnut Street District in downtown Hays.

Anticipation was in the air as a crowd gathered in Union Pacific park Friday evening.

Santa and Mrs. Claus greeted youngsters and adults with smiles and candy canes.

Henry Morgan, 6, asked Santa to bring a dump truck -- a green one, please.

It's become a tradition for Henry and his parents, Russ and Melissa Morgan of Kansas City, to attend the lighting while visiting Henry's grandmother, Julienne Maska, for Thanksgiving, Russ Morgan said.

This was a first for David Lohrmeyer's family. They brought three-year-old Ryan to see Santa.

"He's impressed with the lights," David Lohrmeyer said of his son.

Yvonne Pacula recently moved to Hays from Chicago, and came with Fort Hays State University co-workers and friends.

She "loves the small-town feel" of Hays, she said.

Besides the main event of the tree lighting, students from Jackie Creamer's The Dance Studio performed to holiday music, and Laurel Hickel and Max Walker provided musical entertainment.

The event "gets people to shop locally downtown," said Megan Colson, executive director of Downtown Hays Development Corp., which organized the event.

A number of stores stayed open later to accommodate shoppers.

Coffee and hot chocolate were donated by the Paisley Pear, and Rose Garden Steak Haus & Catering provided the cookies, said Leah Shriwise, Colson's assistant. "Rein dog" and Frosty the Snowman helped serve refreshments.

The FrostFest committee and DHDC sponsored the event, which includes a lighting contest.