SALINA, Kan. -- The Salina Parks and Recreation department has put the word 'Christmas' back in the title of the city's annual holiday party after receiving numerous complaints from people in town.
Late Wednesday, just hours after the controversy began, the event's title was changed to the "Christmas Holiday Party."
"Folks gave us a lot of phone calls and messages talking about their desire to have the word Christmas included so we wanted to be responsive to the community and we took their input," Louthan said.
The city has had an annual Mayor's Christmas Party since 1979. But, back in July, Salina Parks and Recreation decided to change the name of the "Mayor's Christmas Party" to the "Winter Holiday Party."
It was part of an effort to give a facelift to an event that was seeing a decline in attendance.
"We talked about rebranding it and trying to make the programming more interactive," Parks and Recreation Director Dion Louthan said. "(We are) trying to drive attendance and make sure that we are getting as broad of an appeal as we can to the community."
The name change went unnoticed for months until it went viral this week on social media and on local radio programs.
Louthan and his staff walked in Wednesday to find a number of messages already on their machines.
"We had calls that went both directions but without question, the majority of the calls were for the inclusion of the word 'Christmas' in the title," Louthan said.
In messages posted online, many people said they saw the name change as the latest attempt to remove God from an American tradition. Others said it was an example of political correctness gone overboard.
Louthan says it was never their intention to remove Christmas from the event. In fact, even with the name change, Santa, local carolers, were planned to play the same prominent role they always have.
But he says, listening to the calls, he and his staff decided there was a more amenable name that would better serve the event and the community.
That's when the decision was made to change the event's title to the "Christmas Holiday Party."
The party is scheduled for 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. December 15 at the Salina Bicentennial Center.
"The public overwhelmingly spoke and we want to make sure we are responsive to them," Louthan said. "Ultimately, this is their department and we want to put things out there they will enjoy."