Ramona’s Festival of Lights set for Dec. 10

“All Aboard for the Holidays” is the theme for Ramona’s annual Festival of Lights from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10.

“We’re offering several delightful reasons to visit our little town,” said Ramona Mayor Pat Wick. “Santa’s even making a special appearance in Ramona on that night. You’ll find him on main street. “

The Ramona Cafe will be open from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. for supper or a slice of its famous pie. The newly opened Barbershop Gallery, which is two doors south of the cafe, will also be open. The gallery features: fine art by Wick as well as her latest book, “Another Day in the Country,” jewelry by Ramona artist Yvonne Brunner; Ramona memorabilia and more.

The Festival of Lights was created five years ago with the goal of getting every home in Ramona to put up Christmas lights or some holiday display.

“It’s our attempt to light up the dark prairie nights in December,” said Jessica Gilbert, event leader. “It’s another fun reason to come into town.”

This year’s displays will be judged by three persons who are Ramona residents but reside in the country. First and second prizes-gift certificates from area businesses-will be awarded.

From 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. a live nativity will appear on main street. The characters will be portrayed by town residents.

The “gem” of the Festival of Lights, according to Gilbert, is a Christmas tour of the CollinBelt Railroad, a miniature train display that travels through five rooms.

Trains have been Collin Bailey’s life-long passion and from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., he and his friends will be taking folks on 15- to 20-minute tours. The major displays depict the railroad yards in Kansas City and Herington, as well as Ramona.

“Collin decided last summer to share his train hobby with people in Ramona and neighboring towns because he remembered the looks of joy on people’s faces-young and old-when they’ve stopped to visit and view his collection,” Gilbert said.

“Last summer my elderly neighbor stopped by with some of her friends from church and asked if they could see my trains,” Bailey said. “I don’t know if it was seeing the steam locomotive pulling the Empire Builder that rekindled old memories, but I saw years melt off my neighbor’s face as she watched.

“It’s a lot of work to get all the displays ready, but I realized it’s the enjoyment that counts.”

The CollinBelt Railroad Tour is free. Donations are appreciated, though. Bailey is a member of the Park Improvement Committee in Ramona and all donations will go toward the committee’s current project-building bathrooms in the city Park.

Because each tour can only comfortably accommodate five to seven people at a time, reservations are necessary. They can be arranged by calling 785-965-2621 and leaving a message that includes name, phone number, address and the number of people in the party.

If there’s a time between 4:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. when you can’t go on the tour, please indicate that.

People calling in for reservations will receive a ticket with their name and a tour time on it. The ticket also indicates where to board the train for the tour.

People can show up without a ticket, but openings for the tour aren’t guaranteed, Gilbert said.

Some guests will get to help the train conductors and engineers control the throttle on the Southern Pacific Daylight.

Residents of Ramona started decorating the day after Thanksgiving in anticipation of the event, according to Gilbert.

The annual Festival of Lights is sponsored by the Ramona Festivities Committee. For more information call Gilbert at 785-965-2621 or 785-965-7110.

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