By Mr. Matt Decker (Leonard Wood)November 26, 2014
They're two American favorites: Christmas and the open road.
This year, area residents can celebrate both while helping Fort Leonard Wood kick off the holiday season with its Route 66-themed Christmas Tree Lighting event, scheduled from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Dec. 2 at Joint Services Park.
With the theme "Get Your Holiday Kicks on Route 66," the celebration, presented by Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, features music, activities, arts and crafts pictures with Santa and more. The event is free and open to the public.
"This year's theme just seemed to fall into place," said Eli Wilson, FMWR Community Activities manager. "It's always a combined event with the tree lighting and the holiday celebration. This year, all the activities going on will be based on the classic highway -- Route 66 -- that runs through Missouri and this area."
Events are scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. with opening ceremonies.
"During the ceremony, we typically have the School Ages Services singers perform a couple of songs, and the 399th Army Band will perform," Wilson said. "Also, Santa Claus will ride in on a fire truck during that time."
Maj. Gen. Leslie Smith, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, is scheduled to give a holiday message, and, with the help of some volunteers, will flip the switch to officially illuminate Fort Leonard Wood's Christmas tree.
Wilson said that following the tree lighting, which is scheduled at 6 p.m., visitors of all ages can take part in a variety of activities and events set up in tents at the park, which all follow the Route 66 theme.
"We'll have the different activities open from 6 to 8 o'clock," Wilson said. "Some of the activities we have include the Bruce C. Clarke Library holding a 'music store,' while the FMWR Auto Craft Shop will have a 'filing station,' and Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers are doing a classic diner. Inside each tent, we'll have different activities going on."
Other tents will have children's games, art projects and more. Young visitors can also ride a holiday train run by the Outdoor Adventure Center staff in the park's parking lot, and Families can have photos taken with Santa Claus in the main tent.
"One feature we hope to do -- which will depend a lot on weather -- is to put up our big, inflatable outdoor screen and show a movie, just like a drive-in," Wilson said.
Military units, local businesses and organizations will also display their large, plywood holiday decorations as part of the Cards to the Community contest. Cards will be judged, and awards given during the celebration.
Wilson and other officials are urging visitors to arrive early.
"We want people to come out early for the ceremony, because each year a lot of people wait and don't factor in the time they need to park and walk to the event. We want people to get there in time for the tree lighting," Wilson said.
For more information about the Christmas Tree Lighting celebration, call the FMWR Installation Wide Events office at 596.6913 or visit fortleonard woodmwr.com.