As the crowd counted down with President Edward H. Hammond, the trees in front of Sheridan Hall Tuesday evening illuminated, along with the eyes of the children watching.
Regardless of the storm that uprooted one of the trees earlier this semester, people from all over the community gathered to see Provost Larry Gould flip the switch and light up the campus. Hot chocolate, cookies and hayrack rides were provided, as the annual tree lighting ceremony commenced.
This year’s ceremony was sponsored by Fort Hays State University’s Greek life and featured the likes of Victor E. Tiger and the big man himself – Santa Claus. Students and community members were also given the chance to hear the Fort Hays Dickens Carolers and admire the winners of the coloring contest.
Bianka Schultz, first-place winner for the K-1 grade coloring contest, smiled for the crowd as she received her prize and her picture with Hammond. Bianka said she was excited to be at the ceremony and winner of the contest, and already had her gift idea ready for Santa.
“I want the movie Tangled and the toy ‘Tangled,’ ” Bianka said.
Bianka’s mother, Delly Schultz said this was the family’s first time participating in the festivities, and she was glad to see her children enjoying the night.
“It was fun, it was actually fun, the kids are pretty excited about it, so it was good,” Schultz said.
Each year, students from Hays elementary schools receive a coloring sheet and are given the chance to be chosen as the best. This year, the Schultz family was lucky enough to have their daughter picked and experience the tree lightning ceremony.
“Through her school, she was handed out the coloring sheet and she colored and we received a letter saying she won, so we’re here to celebrate that,” Delly said.
Hammond said despite some trouble, the ceremony was a success and he enjoys it each year.
“I think it’s a fantastic event; its one of my favorite things because it brings so many from the community to campus to kick off the holiday season,” Hammond said.
“We light up our holiday’s trees, even though we had a little trouble with the trees, but the physical plant did a nice job. That was the original tree that we used for years and we planted the smaller ones because it got to be too big to do, but then they were able to get it back into shape this year.”
Hammond said events like these gives not only students, but also the children of Hays something to look forward to.
“I don’t think there’s enough in town for small kids to kick off the holiday season,” Hammond said.
“And with the Star of David, the Christmas trees and everything we have here on campus, it’s a great environment for them and we enjoy doing it.”