Santa will arrive in Wichita in his usual explosive fashion on Tuesday at “A Night with Santa,” an annual city-sponsored event that marks the beginning of the holiday season with fireworks, a tree lighting and family activities inside Century II, 225 W. Douglas.
The event, put on by Wichita Parks and Recreation, usually draws about 5,000 people downtown. Those who attend are treated to a high-flying fireworks display.
It all starts at 6 p.m., when bundled-up Wichitans will crowd onto Kennedy Plaza, the area on the north side of Century II, to see Santa arrive. After, they’ll watch Mayor Carl Brewer, flanked by Santa and members of the city council, flip the switch on the city’s Christmas tree, which was erected before Thanksgiving.
The Newman University Troubadours will sing Christmas carols, and “The Night Before Christmas” will be read aloud. This year, the city has partnered with WaterWalk to offer horse-drawn wagon rides around Century II and the WaterWalk area.
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The outside portion of the event, which concludes with a quick-but-colorful display of fireworks over the Arkansas River, will conclude by 6:30 p.m. Then, attendees may file into Century II, where both the Exhibition and Convention halls will be filled with holiday-themed activities for families between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.
“Fun and games for kids – that’s what it’s all about,” said Barbara McGuire, a program specialist with the City of Wichita. “We have a variety of different things geared toward school-aged kids and a lot of things toddlers can participate in, too.”
Families will find inflatables, face painting, a prize wheel and Bingo games. Kids can write letters to Santa, and there will also be an old-fashioned cake walk that will send winners home with donated desserts.
“People walk away with full cakes,” McGuire said. “Remember the old days when that happened?”
A professorial photographer will take pictures with Santa for $5. The event also will feature prize giveaways. Two people will win bicycles, and organizers are auctioning off eight fully decorated, live Christmas trees – stand and all. Winners just have to figure out how to get them home.
The prizes will be given away at 8:30 p.m. Attendees must be present to win.
Century II’s concession stand will be open for those who want to welcome the holiday season with dinner, and several food trucks will be parked outside, too.
Admission to the event is free, but the city will be accepting donations of canned and non-perishable food items for the Kansas Food Bank.