WaKeeney’s Christmas City of the High Plains

(Frank) And we’re back again, and of course, we’re by the tree in the Rotunda of the State Capitol. I must say, they need to turn the heat up a little bit. It’s a little bit chilly. (Deb) We can’t afford it. Did you pay your taxes this year? (Frank) Oh yes. (Deb) I don’t know if I’ve sent my in. Maybe when they get mine they’ll turn up the heat a little bit. (Frank) That’s it. (Deb) It’s all my fault. We can’t have schools and heat too. Roads, schools, heat; you got to pick your battles man. (Frank) And wear a sweater next year. (Deb) That’s right. Wear a sweater. I’ve got my fur over here, you can– you look good in fur Frank, I look good in fur. We got a great Christmas story for you right now. WaKeeney who has the best light display between Kansas City and Denver, and if you’ve not been out to see it, you’re going to have to. It’s just a couple minutes off the interstate, and WaKeeney has a special place in my heart, because Dr. Jake is the vet at the WaKeeney Sale Barn, they’re at the Zimmerman’s home. Our good friends the Zimmermans have the Sale Barn. It’s so funny because I’ll tell people, my girlfriends in Topeka or back in Philadelphia, “I’m going to the Sale Barn with Jake” “Oh, what are you selling?” and I’m like, “No, livestock sale,” “But what does he do,” I’m like, “He’s the veterinarian. So, we won’t even talk about what he does in the Sale Barn,” and I get to go, “He’ll be mine Tuesdays,” because good help is hard to find, Frank. He’s got me, let’s stay out of it. (Frank) WaKeeney, it has the best light display between here and that Kansas City one. (Deb) It’s beautiful. (Frank) Does that include the Plaza? (Deb) Yes! (Frank) Okay. (Deb) Each year, WaKeeney is magically transformed into a holiday wonderland. The county seat of Trego County has been known as the Christmas City of the High Plains since 1950. The idea began with a couple of businessmen and the town has turned on the lights ever since. The one-of-a-kind display features nearly 7,000 twinkling lights, more than twice as many lights as there are people in Trego County, 1,400 pounds of fresh greenery, 1,100 yards of fresh greenery roping, and approximately 3 miles of electrical wiring. The Christmas Tree Lighting is always held on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. The holiday begins with at the courthouse square, the center of the town’s activities any time of year, but particularly special during the Christmas season. The focal point is the magnificent 35-foot tree of fresh greenery in the middle of the intersection at the southwest corner of the square. The tree rests under a canopy of heavenly blue lights. Plus a four-square block area around the tree is draped with fresh greenery, handcrafted wreaths, bows, and bells, and, of course, more lights. This annual tradition is considered the largest Christmas tree and lighting display between Kansas City and Denver. And where did the unusual name of WaKeeney originate? It is the combination of two names — Keeney and Warren. James Keeney, a land speculator in Chicago, purchased land at the site of modern-day WaKeeney from the Kansas Pacific Railway in 1877. He and business partner Albert Warren formed Warren, Keeney, & Co., surveyed and plotted the site in 1878, and established a colony there in 1879. The town grew quickly, but crop failures drove settlers to leave in 1880 almost as fast as they had come. The Volga Germans revitalized the area upon their arrival to the high plains.

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