Peabody revives community Christmas event with a ‘bang’

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Peabody Main Street Association decided in May to give its community something it really needed for Christmas.

They’re calling it Western Wonderland.

The day-long event, which spices the start of the Christmas season with the flavor of the Wild West, is planned for Dec. 2.

“I knew in years past we had had Christmas events before, but last year, from what I understand, nothing happened,” said Kristen Hooper, PMSA director.

“I wanted to make sure that something did happen this year. I had spoken with my board and with a couple of different people around the community-and actually everyone had kind of the same idea.”

Hooper credited Peabody Police Chief Jeff Pohlman with coming up with the western theme. He and Hooper are members of a planning committee that also includes Leslie LaFoy, Mary Avery and Beth Eldridge.

“As every community does, Peabody has a little bit of western heritage and history,” Hooper said. “We thought that would be something fun that could incorporate all ages.

“We wanted this event to be something for not only our community, but something the entire county could participate in. A western theme is something everybody can have a hand in.”

Developing a concept is one thing, organizing a full and diverse program is something else-especially since Hooper wasn’t hired for her current position until May.

“An event like this usually takes a year to plan-you need a full 12 months,” she said. “Because I came on so late, we were kind of cut short on time.

“Really, this is an event we’re really proud of-not only just for all the people we’re bringing in, but also because we’ve done something that usually takes a year in five months.

“I’ve been fortunate to work with such a dedicated committee,” she said. “They’ve volunteered a lot of hours.”

The day’s itinerary includes some out-of-the-ordinary “hired help,” including three performers who have developed a wide reputation as country-western singers or cowboy poets: Mike Flavin, Steve Helms and Mike Leonard.

The threesome will present a full program at 7 p.m. in the local high school gymnasium.

“All three of these gentlemen kind of have their own following, and kind of run the rodeo circuit,” Hooper said. “We’re very excited to have them here.”

She said she feels the same way about Aces & Six Guns, a group of Old West gunfight enactors that has performed at Wichita’s Cowtown and recently placed third in a national competition.

“They’re going to come in and head off the parade in full character,” she said. “They’ll shoot off their guns and get the parade started, and then after the parade they will do a little comedy appropriate for all ages.

“They can do a variety of things,” she added. “We asked them to do a comedy. And they do a gun-safety demonstration prior to their performance to educate kids and adults on the importance of gun safety.”

Serving as grand marshall of a 4 p.m. parade is Miss Kansas, Michelle Walthers.

“We wanted someone to come who was kind of a general person for the state of Kansas and be our grand marshall,” Hooper said. “We thought it was very special that Miss Kansas was available.”

In addition to these events, participants can anticipate a breakfast with Father Christmas, crafts, games and puppet shows for children, a cooking demonstration, book signings and a youth dance.

Food options include a chuck wagon supper with entrees branded with names such as No Bull Roast Beef, Open Fire Taters and Cookie’s Coffee.

For the mid-day meal, the Peabody Historical Society is providing “Soups of the Season” at the historic Morgan House.

“For anyone who has ever attended their soup suppers, it’s all homemade soups and homemade pies made with definite love,” Hooper said.

“You can taste the dedication in their soup. They don’t play around.”

She said the Peabody Main Street Association hopes Western Wonderland will become an annual event, and she appreciates the individuals and businesses who have contributed money and energy to its pioneer beginning.

“Hopefully, it eventually will become a self-supporting event,” Hooper said. “But we will always offer sponsorships because that helps to get others involved and helps the community take ownership in this event.”

To help underwrite the festivities, organizers are selling $3 pins that will enable purchasers to gain free entry into seven events on the schedule, including the live entertainment.

“We are excited that (the day is) family friendly and affordable,” she said.


*8-9:30 a.m.-Breakfast with Father Christmas at The HUB.

9 a.m.-1 p.m.-Family photo opportunity at 101 S. Walnut with a western Christmas background and adult-sized wooden horse. Bring digital camera.

*9:30-11 a.m.-Crafts for the kids at downtown buildings marked with balloons in front.

*9:30-10:30 a.m.-Cooking demonstration featuring Debbie McSweeny at the Senior Center.

11 a.m.-noon-Puppet show performed by Baptist youth group at The HUB.

10 a.m.-noon-Book signing and discussion at Jackrabbit Hollow featuring Deborah Raney.

11 a.m.-1 p.m.-“Soups for the Season.” Soup and desert by the Peabody Historical Society at the Morgan House. (By donation.)

1-3 p.m.-Book signing and discussion featuring Jim Hoy at Jackrabbit Hollow.

*1-2:30 p.m.-Children’s corral of games at Santa Fe Park.

*2-3 p.m.-Cowboy poets Mike Flavin and Mike Leonard at Senior Center.

2:30-3 p.m.-Puppet show by Baptist youth group at The Hub.

4 p.m.-“Western Wonderland Parade” along Walnut Street. Grand marshall: Michelle Walthers, Miss Kansas. Featuring Aces & Six Guns, reenacting a comedic gunfight.

4:30-6:30 p.m.-Chuck wagon supper at the Senior Center. Menu: No Bull Roast Beef, Trail Beans, Open-Fire Taters, Johnny Cakes, Country Cobbler, Cookie’s Coffee, Tenderfoot Tea and spring water. (Adults $7.50, $6.50 with pin. Children age 6 and younger, and adults 55 and older, $4.)

*7 p.m.-midnight-“Boot Scootin’ Youth Dance” at The HUB, featuring D.J. Scrats. ($3 without pin.)

*7 p.m.-Cowboy poetry and country western music at the high school gymnasium. Featuring Mike Flavin, Steven Helms, Mike Leonard. ($3 without pin.)

*Free admission with $3 pin.

Key to locations

The HUB: 118 N. Walnut

Senior Center, 106 N. Walnut

Jackrabbit Hollow, 113 N. Walnut

Morgan House, 212 N. Walnut

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