WAKEENEY — Hailed as the Christmas City of the High Plains, the holiday spirit can be discovered year-round in WaKeeney.

The city’s annual tree lighting and downtown Christmas display is known as the largest between Kansas City and Denver, but even a trip to the city in the summer will bring reminders of Christmas.

A vacant lot located in the 100 block of Main Street has been transformed into the WaKeeney’s North Pole Park, featuring permanent holiday decorations.

“WaKeeney, the main thing we’re known as is the Christmas City of the High Plains year-round,” said Cathy Albert, director of WaKeeney Travel and Tourism. We only have the decorations up Thanksgiving to New Years, but the North Pole is there year-round.

“It’s kind of hard when it’s a hundred-plus (degrees) out here in the middle of the summer time to try to do too much with the Christmas spirit, but the (North Pole) is a little way to do that.”

The North Pole Park, which was created in the 1990s, features holiday wall murals and tiny holiday sculptures. In the back is a metal shed dubbed “Santa’s Workshop” where Santa greets children during the tree-lighting festivities.

“It has a nice mural on one side of a holiday scene in the city,” Albert said. “On the opposite wall, we’re getting ready to paint some Christmas trees on there. It will say, 'WaKeeney, Christmas City of the High Plains,' for people to use for selfie background to take pictures.”

Four-foot, three-dimensional Christmas Tree markers, which give information about the history of WaKeeney remain in the downtown area.

“We’ve been trying to increase some things around town so that we have some (Christmas) things more year-round,” Albert said.

More than 6,000 lights are stretched across the buildings downtown in WaKeeney, a community of about 2,000 people. New LED lights were put up 2018.

The decorations in the four-block downtown area also includes wreaths, bows, bells and garland.

Albert said WaKeeney strives to make the celebration bigger and better each year.

“Last year, we had what was called Santa’s downtown Workshop," she said. "There’s a Soup Supper that night, the stores are open. They added all these events for the children, so that they having something to do while they’re waiting to see Santa Claus.

“This will be the third year, I think, that we have a virtual reality ride out of Manhattan that comes in, and the ride is Santa’s Sleigh Ride. You are actually sitting in Santa’s seat and the reindeer are out in front of you and you’re ascending through the sky.”