By Dennis Minich
A conclusion to many of my family’s Thanksgivings was part of the family taking off early to head to the Plaza to watch the lighting ceremony.
Earlier it was my siblings, later it was nephews and nieces. I never made the trek, I didn’t really see the point. The Plaza lights are basically the same every year and they come on every night so why I would fight tens of thousands of people to stand out in the cold to watch them come on never made much sense. That is not to say I didn’t enjoy going to see the Plaza lights and still do, just not fighting the crowd on Thanksgiving night when there was still pie left to be eaten.
Just to sound like an old fogey, “back in the day,” the Plaza was actually cooler. I think my dad shared my antipathy for crowds as in the early days we always concluded Christmas with a trip to the Plaza.
Christmas night we would head to the big shopping district and what was cool was it wasn’t just the buildings lit up, but there were window displays with mechanical reindeer and dancing snowmen and elves at work. Sure, it lost a little impact on Christmas night, but it was fun to get out and walk around, it was never too early to dream of next year.
Any more I think part of the problem with the Plaza lights is it makes a great picture from a helicopter, but up close it is just buildings outlined in lights.
There are all kinds of displays that are much more spectacular. Crown Center is much more impressive. There is a building near I-435 and Metcalf in Overland Park that people travel to, park across the street and tune their radios to a FM micros-transmitter and see a display synched up with music that can certainly get you in the Christmas spirit.
Powell Gardens has a festive display. I haven’t been for a few years, but Longview Lake’s display was always worth the long line waiting to drive through. Now businesses have also figured out Christmas lights can bring in crowds so amusement parks like Silver Dollar City decorate simply to bring in the paying public.
Even though I sometimes feel as if I have a Scrooge-like side, I have to admit this year I am feeling a little festive. I went out Thanksgiving night for some early shopping: not for any gifts, I got things for me, but still being among the hustle and bustle was kind of exciting.
Last Saturday night, I drove down to Adrian for the Christmas Parade and Hot Chocolate Night and it was a genuinely good time. It took about 15 minutes after exiting on Highway 18 to make it the quarter mile to the Frontier Village as many other people had my same idea.
But what I found was very impressive. Planners said they entertained more than 1,000 visitors. The village was decorated in just the right amount of lights. There was traditional Christmas music playing.
Folks lined up to meet the Clauses, tour the museum, get popcorn and for cookies and hot chocolate. (I had my choice of confections and chose Rice Krispy Treats. Is there anything better?) You could ride a wagon drawn by mules or by an 1903 steam engine. There were things going on throughout the village, more than I could document.
Although it was the only night for all of the treats, the village will be open for drive-through viewing the next three weekends. It is worth the trip.
I think things will get turned up another notch the weekend of Dec. 8 when among the city celebrations will be events in Harrisonville, Drexel and Garden City.
Members of the Love the Square group in Harrisonville have been planning and working to make this year’s Mayor’s Christmas Tree Lighting and Christmas on the Square bigger and better.
It has been many years, but I remember when the courthouse lighting was a big event locally and unlike the Plaza, I took the time to attend. There are hopes of building the event back up to the level of the past and I hope the weather cooperates and everyone comes out to enjoy the event next Saturday night.
Also, on Saturday is the Holiday Express in Drexel. I have been informed by several who have seen it in the past that it is a “must-see” attraction. If you like Christmas and trains what could you not love. And then in Garden City there is a full afternoon and evening of events at the Community Center. With fun and games, it should make for a festive day.
If it sounds like I am promoting these things it is because I am. Until you see behind the curtain and know what organizers put into these events you don’t really appreciate how hard it is. Having seen I just think it will be a shame if everyone doesn’t get out and enjoy some of these festivities. And this is coming from a Christmas grouch.