Every year the kick-off to the Christmas and holiday season starts the Friday after Thanksgiving with the Festival of Lights in Manhattan, KS. Thousands of people gather for the lighting ceremony the day after Thanksgiving at 7 pm in Blue Earth Plaza with their family and friends to watch Santa fly into Manhattan, KS followed by the lighting of the largest pre-lit tree in Kanas!
If you are not familiar with the Festival of Lights and its calendar, you can find more information on either their Facebook page or their website. While you are there take a look at some of their previous kick-off videos. I promise you will be impressed at the level of detail and effort put into this entire event. Previous videos show Santa flying past Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan Hill, and then over KS Hill right before Santa flies into the Blue Earth Plaza. Trust me it is amazing!
In addition to the tree lighting for the Festival of Lights, there are several events throughout the month for both individuals and families to participate in. Need to get a letter off to Santa? Drop one in the mailbox marked "Letters to Santa" so Santa can send you a reply! For those not comfortable walking through the lights, you can tune your radio to 88.1FM and watch the lights dance to the music from your car.
The Festival of Lights in Manhattan, KS truly speaks to how special of a town really is. This event is a place for friends and families to make memories and as a way to bring the community together. Several families, I know in town have made it a tradition to attend the lighting every year together. They enjoy the hot chocolate, watching the magic of Santa flying in, and then taking the evening to slow down as they walk together through the lights. Many even use the various decorations at the Festival of Lights as a background for family photos.
Something that I think most people are not aware of is that the Festival of Lights in Manhattan, KS is put on strictly by donations from local businesses, individuals, and volunteers who donate their time! The idea for a simple holiday tree in Blue Earth Plaza originally came from a local businessman, Colin Noble. Using his local network, Colin, reached out to other local businesses that he knew also had a philanthropic mindset and in 2013, the Festival of Lights was born.
The group formed a not-for-profit organization as a way to continue to pledge to the event and encourage others to do so as well. The group, now known as Whoville Inc. has continued to pledge and give back to a community that they all love so much while at the same time making this event special every year!
If you are like us, we make a night of it! My girlfriends and I load up a car full of us and plan our route to enjoy as many lights as we can. Our route ALWAYS includes the Festival of Lights, the Christmas lights in Manhattan, KS, and then we head over to Wamego and take a drive through the Wamego City Park!