Christmas in Wichita means graham cracker houses held together with frosting and decorated with Cap’n Crunch and Skittles.
It means heavy coats and visible breath in a garden filled with glowing lights, carolers and frozen plants.
It requires the presence of Clara in ballet slippers and a line of cars with their lights off, snaking single file through glowing, lighted streets.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas in Wichita without the events and activities that make the season uniquely ours.
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And with Thanksgiving quickly approaching, organizers of events like Assistance League’s Gingerbread Village, Botanica’s Illuminations, Friends University’s “The Nutcracker” and Heartspring’s Lights on the Lake are busy preparing for the influx of celebratory masses.
At Botanica, volunteers already are preparing the grounds for Illuminations, a popular event that fills Botanica’s grounds with carolers, light displays, fragrant chimineas and more than 4,000 glowing luminarias.
The event draws thousands of people to the gardens, and those who come once usually make it a hot-chocolate-sipping, Santa-meeting family tradition, said Jamee Ross, director of development.
“People are always blown away by how much fun it is,” she said. “It’s not only beautiful for the adults, who marvel at the beauty of the luminaries, but there’s so much for kids to do, too.”
Illuminations will run from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 26-27 and Dec. 3-4, 10-11 and 17-18.
Families who prefer indoor merriment have flocked for 16 years to Gingerbread Village, an event that allows young artists to create and decorate gingerbread houses. For the past five years, it’s taken place at Church of the Magdalen.
But the event has become so popular — about 5,000 people attend each year — that it outgrew the space, which church members found they needed during the holidays.
This year, Gingerbread Village will be at the Sedgwick County Extension Center, 7001 W. 21st St. Everything else — from the helpful volunteers to the sweet and tasty construction materials — will remain the same.
That event is from 2 to 8 p.m. Nov. 19, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 20 and 12:30 to 5 p.m. Nov. 21.
Another family event that’s becoming a can’t-miss tradition is Lights on the Lake, a drive-through light display set up on the Heartspring Campus at 8700 E. 29th St. North.
The centerpiece of the 7-year-old event, which attracts about 25,000 carloads a year, is a 45-foot lighted Christmas tree towering above the display.
“It definitely seems to be turning into kind of a family tradition for people,” said Bethany Lippe, the event’s organizer. “They’ll go look at Christmas lights and add the big displays onto their trip.”
Lights on the Lake opens on Thanksgiving night and runs 6-10 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays from Nov. 25 to Dec. 12 and then nightly Dec. 16 through 25.
Several other events also are getting prepped even as you read this. The little ginger cookies and gorgeous snowflakes have been practicing for the annual “Nutcracker” productions staged by Ballet Wichita and Friends University/Wichita Ballet Theatre.
Bonnie Bing’s back-by-popular-demand Holiday Highlights fashion show will set off down the runway tonight.
And music fans have been snatching up tickets to Christmas-themed events at Intrust Bank Arena, including the Rockettes Holiday spectacular Nov. 20-21, Mannheim Steamroller’s Nov. 28 Christmas show and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra show on Dec. 15.