Winter Wonderland new to downtown Lincoln

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[November 04, 2019] 

While downtown merchant Kathie Williams of Small Town Creations has been heavily involved in downtown holiday planning and the huge Small Business Saturday event taking place on November 30th in Lincoln, she claims no credit for that. But, a new activity sure to become a favorite for years to come, ‘Winter Wonderland,’ is her baby and one that she is very excited about.

Again, Williams looked to the past and hopes for the future. She said that she can remember the days when Christmas on the square was special and she wants it to be special again.

She thought about the trees quite some time ago and felt it would be really nice to bring a festival of trees of sorts to the heart of the city. Noting that holidays are sometimes hard for folks, especially when it is the first after a loss, a big part of her hope is that bringing the trees to the city will help some in their healing process by giving them the opportunity to remember loved ones.

The trees will be placed on the west side of the Logan County Courthouse, lining the sidewalks around the two side yards on that side of the courthouse. Each tree will have a sign placed at the foot of the tree, and options include putting up a tree “in memory of” a loved one. The second option will be a simple “Season’s Greetings ….” from area businesses or individuals.

Williams said when she came up with the idea she didn’t know it would be so complicated. She had thought that she could get the trees and “just put them out there.” Then she did her research and discovered that she would need to have approval from the Logan County Board. She also needed someone to assist with the handling of the money for the trees.

Williams said she wanted to take Small Town Creations out of the equation when it came to the money. She didn’t want anyone to get the idea that she was doing this for her own profit, because there is zero profit in this project, it’s all about doing something special in Lincoln.

Her first step was to solicit the help of the Logan County Tourism Bureau. Williams serves on the board at the LCTB, and she took her ideas to the board at the September meeting. She said that she needed to have someone else control the money and asked if the board would be willing to do that. The board agreed and the Lincoln Initiative Fund was set up for taking the tree money and paying the bills that would be incurred for the trees. People wanting to sponsor a tree for this year need to hurry, and they can do so by going into Small Town Creations.

Because there is no Chamber of Commerce in Lincoln, the LCTB has taken on projects like this. The goal according to Director Morgan Gleason is to assist in projects that will ‘better the community’ and promote visitors to the area, regardless of whether or not they are ‘tourists.”

While addressing the LCTB about her ideas, the two Logan County Board members on the tourism board also offered some helpful suggestions.

Jim Wessbecher was concerned about how the trees would be placed. He noted that those who buy the trees are going to want ‘front row’ exposure for their tree. He suggested that the trees not be placed in rows where there were some in front and some in back. The solution to that was to line the sidewalks of the two side yards so that every tree is facing outward and all have equal exposure.

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Emily Davenport thought it was a great idea, but warned Williams that this was something that could grow beyond the courthouse in years to come. Williams hopes that it does indeed, but for the first year, she has set a limit of 40 trees, with 25 of those already claimed.

Williams gained permission of the Logan County Board for the use of the lawn. The county board was gracious and very supportive. They addressed liability and litter concerns and offered input on some of the rules that should be established for the decorating of the trees.

The main concern of the board was that objects placed on the trees would blow off in the wind and cause clutter around the courthouse lawn. To that end, the ornaments used may not be glass, and they have to be securely fastened to the trees (wiring to the branches is recommended). There are also restrictions on using edible ornaments because of the birds and restrictions against using tinsel on the trees. The courthouse lawn has electric connections available. Each tree may have two strands of lights, and Williams is working on providing the extension cords for the lights.

The trees will be placed by the Land of Lincoln CEO group on Saturday, November 23rd. Decorating can then begin on Sunday, November 24th and must be completed no later than Friday, November 29th.

On the evening of Friday, Nov. 29th, there will be an official tree lighting ceremony with the time to be announced, but probably around 5:30 p.m. The community will be invited to attend the ceremony and enjoy the first evening of the Winter Wonderland.

All told, Williams sees the downtown activities as the start of something really great in Lincoln. She is thoroughly excited about the response of the downtown business owners/managers and feels that it has been a very positive step for all toward forming a bond of support for one another.

She is also very appreciative of the LCTB Board and Gleason for their support.

Again, this is another show of unity in the community and a demonstration of how there are many people in the area who want to make Lincoln a special place and see the return of a thriving economy.

A few weeks ago Lincoln College President Dr. David Gerlach was at a Lincoln City Council to introduce a new economic development group for Lincoln. Quoting John Quincy Adams, Gerlach said, “’Who will fill the void of the loss of economic development in this community?’ with Adams answering, ‘We the people.’”

One small voice can start an avalanche.

Good luck to all the small businesses who are working so hard to revive something special in our community. We encourage everyone to shop local and to shop Small Business Saturday in Lincoln on Saturday, November 30th!

For more information about Small Business Saturday or to purchase a tree contact Small Town Creations at 115 South Kickapoo Street, phone 217-737-1634.

Information can also be obtained at the Logan County Tourism Bureau by calling 217-732-8687 or visiting 101 North Chicago Street in Lincoln.

[Nila Smith]

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