Wichita kicks off Christmas season with tree lighting ceremony and party

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The Christmas season celebrations kicked off in Wichita Sunday with a special party along the river and in Old Town.

The festivities kicked off with food trucks and Santa visits at the Boathouse along the river.  

Hundreds turned out, though not everyone knew what to expect. Tyron Mellington said he came just because he wanted to see the boat at the Boathouse.  But he found something else that looked fun, too - horse drawn wagon rides.

"I think it's going to be fun because I never got to ride a horse ride," Tyron said.

He wasn't alone.

Marsha Magill brought her grandkids out to enjoy the festivities, combining the city's Christmas party with a family birthday celebration. 

"Something they haven't gotten to do," she smiled.

Helping folks get a chance to celebrate the holidays with some popular favorites, is just one of the many reasons Wichita Clean Streams says it sponsors the before and after party at the Boathouse.

"We want people to see that they can recreate on the river right here in their back yards," said Michaela Rempkowski.

The group concentrates on sharing a message of keeping the river clean so the public can continue to use it.  Their Christmas party used to be its own event, but the group found Wichitans were choosing either their celebration or the city's big tree lighting ceremony downtown.  Now, they work with the city and, thanks to city operated shuttles between the Boathouse and Old Town Square, Wichitans can do it all. 

"Every family in Wichita can come and enjoy something like this," Rempkowski said.  

"I mean this is my first one so I guess it's pretty good," Ceanna Trice said about the tree lighting.

From the countdown to the flip of the switch to turn on the City Christmas Tree lights to the visit from Santa and the music from the Newman Troubadours, the half hour ceremony met with many cheers.

"The singing was really good," Nia Trice said.

Karen Goken and her friends came down from Hutchinson to see the big finale, Christmas lanterns on the river and holiday fireworks.

"Well, we've never seen the lights on the river.  We thought it'd be neat," Goken said.

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