By RACHAEL GRAY
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in southwest Kansas.
In and around Garden City, streets and homes are lit and decorated in anticipation of the Dec. 25 holiday.
Travelers along U.S. Highway 50 in the southwest Kansas portion have plenty of sights and some sounds to experience as they head home or visit loved ones this holiday season.
For Dorothy Shankle in Lakin, her light display that wraps partially around her home on Thomas Street is a family tradition.
The Shankles' home is just one turn off of U.S. 50, on the west edge of Lakin.
Leading up to the Shankle home, a path through the yard is lined with glowing lollipops. A display of lighted angels, a large nativity scene, the North Pole, Santa and his sleigh, are all lined out on the lawn.
On the porch, guests are greeted by large, swirling and sparkling ornaments and lights dangling from the porch roof.
Shankle said the light display for her family started in 2004, when they moved to town. Before, her parents had lived in the house and always did lights.
"It's just a tradition for us," she said.
And it brings the family together.
Her children, Annette Shankle, Wichita, and John Shankle and Kathy McVey, Lakin, all came together with their children earlier this month and knocked out the decorating all in a day. "Their kids — my grandkids — they all just come and do it or it wouldn't get done," Shankle said.
The lights are an annual constant for the Shankles, even when their lives change. Shankle lost her husband, Russell, earlier this year.
The lights help the Shankles continue a family tradition.
"We just love doing it," she said.
Every year, the light display keeps getting bigger.
In 2004, it started with a few lights and a small nativity scene. Shankle's children then bought her a larger nativity scene, and every year she adds more lights and decorations.
"My son always says, 'Don't buy anymore,'" she said and laughed.
People in Lakin and passersby have come to expect the elaborate holiday display at the Shankle home.
"People ask every year when we're going to get it up," she said.
As for the town of Lakin, this Saturday they will have Christmas activities from 10 a.m. until the lighted Christmas parade downtown at 6:30 p.m. Santa and treats will follow the parade at the Girl Scout Park on Main Street.
The event features little kid king and queen contests, candy cane hunts, coin hunts, bicycle and tricycle rodeos and a free soup supper at the Memorial Building sponsored by the Kearny County Bank.
Farther west along U.S. 50, downtown Syracuse is decorated with oval wreaths wishing visitors Happy Holidays. A town Christmas tree is lit in the city park.
Linda Dinkel, city clerk, said the decorations are minimal.
"We're subtle, but it's pretty," she said.
Dinkel said the Christmas tree in the park has been there since she can remember.
On Sunset Drive, Shayla and Marshal Hart have a light display synchronized to music. Light viewers can tune their car stereos to an FM station to hear the music that is synchronized with the lights. The Harts also have a message for listeners — to bless the troops and have Happy Holidays.
Eastward from Lakin and Syracuse, downtown Deerfield is decorated with wreaths that have candles in the middle with clear bulbs. A big wreath hangs from the front of the city office. On Dec. 18, the Deerfield Recreation Commission will host a Deerfield Holiday Celebration in conjunction with the high school and middle school Christmas programs.
East of Garden City in Ingalls, city workers have been putting up decorations.
"We've been doing a little here and there. It's a mishmash, but it's taking shape," Julie Wood, city clerk, said.
At 5 p.m. Dec. 15, Santa Claus will be at the Ingalls Library.
Debbie Milne, the local librarian, said the event will take place until 7 p.m. Right at 5 p.m., Santa will arrive at the library on a fire engine.
Hot chocolate, hot cider and homemade cookies will be served.
"It's a nice event for the children and families," Milne said.
Further east on U.S. 50, city workers in Cimarron have lit up the historic downtown.
A Lighted Christmas Parade is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday. Santa will take photos with children, and there's a $100 prize for the best parade entry.
Residents have fashioned elaborate displays on the east edge of town, along the highway.
Patty Duncan, Cimarron city clerk, said lights and decorations have been put up on the lightpoles downtown.
"It's beautiful. They wind the lights around the old fashioned light poles. It sure gets me in the holiday spirit. When they come out, and come on, it's wonderful," she said.