The Christmas Tree Lighting Festival kicked off on Saturday with crowds from across Clinton County joining together at Prairie Creek Park for a “Hallmark” experience during the Christmas season.
Following the Christmas Parade around the downtown Frankfort square, families and friends gathered at Prairie Creek Park to celebrate the Christmas Tree Lighting Festival for its second year. The event kicked off with opportunities for community members to snag photos with Santa Claus, have their face painted with seasonal designs, grab dinner at the food trucks, Big Country BBQ and Brandon’s Burgers, and explore the cutout “selfie” areas for memorable photos for Christmas. At 5 p.m., the Frankfort Orchestra and Choir took the stage before the Frankfort Middle School Band rounded out the Christmas performances at 5:30 p.m. The tree lighting ceremony with Mayor Judy Sheets and coloring contest winner Abigail Head began at 6 p.m. as the lights on the Christmas tree donated by Cottrell’s Tree Farm in Rossville were illuminated. Organizer MaryLynn Peter and MC Kyle Bruton announced the winners of the bicycle drawing at 6:15 p.m. before the lip sync contest and ugly sweater contest commenced on The Farmers Bank Performance Center Stage.
“I don’t want to hear anyone say there’s nothing to do in Frankfort, especially today,” Peter said. “This is going to be amazing.”
Throughout the event, children were invited to decorate ornaments and play inflatable games geared toward bringing enjoyment to the children of Clinton County during the Christmas season. The community was also invited to explore different vendors selling and sampling unique and locally-made Christmas gifts.
“Look at this place, it’s amazing,” Peter said. “We’ve got the stage all decorated. Got the music going right now … Look at this amazing place. There’s football toss going on. We got all kinds of cutouts for your selfies, more games going that way.”
The lip sync battle included many children from across the county who practiced “Santa Baby,” “All I Want For Christmas is My 2 Front Teeth,” “Feliz Navidad” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” for a chance to win a cash prize before moving onto the final round for “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” Peter commented that those who did not participate in the lip sync contest and the ugly sweater contest missed an opportunity to win $100 or more throughout the contests. The funds for the contests and to help supplement the rental of different activities and purchase of materials for the festival were raised through the online Christmas Tree Lighting auction this year, which Peter stated was a success and will likely be returning next year.
During the festival, the Frankfort Unified Neighborhoods group, known as F.U.N, visited the festival as their zany characters to continue spreading Christmas cheer with goodie bags, including an elf, chips, candy and much more.
“I see the F.U.N group came in (as) Christmas characters, and they have goodie bags for everybody,” Peter said. “The F.U.N Group is out. I got the Grinch, and I got gingerbread man. They’re passing out little goodies. Elsa’s walking around somewhere.”
Peter expressed that the night was one to remember, and she only expressed one concern after the festival had wrapped up for the evening. Peter stated that many dog owners that visited the festival were not picking up the “presents” the dogs left behind, which caused the volunteers for the festival to be tasked with cleaning the grassy area of Prairie Creek Park during and after the festival.
“I’m walking around this beautiful park, and I’m finding little presents from dogs,” Peter said. “When you’re out walking your dog, can you pick up? I mean, we’ve picked up so many little presents from the dogs. I’m still seeing them.”
According to Peter, the second year for the Christmas Tree Lighting Festival was a success, and the third iteration will kick off around the same time in 2024. However, she recently announced that she was seeking the help of the community to further improve the lip sync battles to include more adults as the children of Clinton County were awarded all of the prizes due to the lack of adult participation.
“I would still like to keep the Lip Syncing Contest, but trying to figure out how to get adults involved,” Peter posted. “I’ve tried to include adults in the fun so I don’t see ‘there’s nothing to do in Frankfort’ all the time. The kids came out in full force and took away big money. Any suggestions?”
Suggestions may be sent to MaryLynn Peter on Facebook or posted on the Christmas Tree Lighting Festival Facebook page.
During the months without the festival, community members are invited to attend Peter’s other renowned event in Frankfort, the farmers market. This month’s farmers market will take place on Saturday, Dec. 9 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Edward Jones Building at the Clinton County Fairgrounds. The indoor market will continue on the first Saturdays in January, February, March and April before returning to Veterans Park in May.
During the Christmas Tree Lighting Festival, WILO broadcasted live from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., which was sponsored by The City of Frankfort.