SEMINOLE — Boxers, bulldogs and bassets were lined up waiting to be judged during Seminole Main Street's Santa Paws costume contest.
Some pet handlers were sipping hot chocolate while nearby, children to seniors were waiting to board the tram. It's an 18-foot trailer with seats along both sides pulled by a small John Deere tractor and decorated with strands of Christmas lights.
As a little band played, the tennis shoes and boots worn by onlookers tapped to the sound of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”
And yet, these are just the frills at the “Snowman Wonderland,” sponsored by the Seminole Lions Club. The lights are what got all this started — just about six months ago.
The holiday revelers were between an oversized “Peeking Snowman” atop the west end roof of the Donald W. Reynolds Wellness Center, 1001 E Strother Ave., and 60 lighted Christmas displays along both ends of an outdoor walking track.
All across Oklahoma there are communities that come together to celebrate the holidays with light displays or other events. In some cases those have been going on for years. Others, such as that of the Seminole Lions Club, are in their rookie campaign. Nonetheless, the celebrations are often examples of Oklahomans uniting to provide something many can enjoy.
Neil Craig, a resident of Seminole for 33 years, is an insurance agent and a member of the Lion's Club.
Craig's leading the Snowman Wonderland charge, and charging hard.
“The city manager Steve Saxon is from Chickasha and he knew the worth of a good exhibit and what it did for the town and community and how it brought it together,” Craig said. “They wanted to start off kind of slow here, 10 or 12 displays, and see where it would go from there. I kind of felt like we ought to be able to at least double that because people in this community always come together to support you.”
At Seminole, Santa and his reindeer are in motion, taking off and then soaring past an oil derrick in a display on the north end. Santa's also driving a truck hauling a large present, playing football and skiing behind a boat.
He's prominent in others as well, but certainly not all the displays.
While one display spells out “Rejoice,” another is that of a cross with a wreath on it.
Visitors can walk across a lighted bridge to an island to view a tall Christmas tree.
Members of a Lions Club committee went out and started talking to businesses, individuals and groups, showing them a catalog of displays.
Some people sponsored displays as memorials to loved ones. Businesses showed their support for the community by buying one or even two displays.
The Lions Club sold 12 displays.
Then it sold 12 more.
“The first thing we knew, we ended up with 60,” Craig said. “We finally had to stop because the lady who makes them in Chickasha with her husband, just couldn't produce any more. We had really wanted to stop back in September, but once people knew about it, it just kind of snowballed.”
The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Snowman Wonderland made its debut in this community of about 7,400 people.
There is no charge for admission to Snowman Wonderland.
People can take a walking path stroll from 6 to 10 nightly through Jan. 3. However, each Monday, Tuesday and Thursday through Dec. 20, the Lions Club will operate the tram, allowing visitors to ride along the walking track to view the displays. And on those three nights of each week, different groups and/or businesses present different activities. The Santa Paws contest has been held, but there are more activities to come.
Ernie Willis, emergency management director for the city of Seminole, has lived here for 35 years. Willis proudly began naming some of the many things his hometown offers. With his right index finger, he started numbering them off, tapping on his pinkie, ring, middle and then index finger. Skipping his thumb, he began again and named more.
Willis, also a member of the Lions Club, arrives each night around 5:30.
“I came out the other night and as I plugged in the lights on the gingerbread house,” Willis said, “two cars pulled in and stopped. There were eight people who jumped out of the two cars, six kids and two adults. People love it.”
Craig said that in addition to the overwhelming support of the community, city employees and inmates from Davis Correctional at Holdenville worked diligently to have the Snowman Wonderland ready by late November.
More to offer
Organizers also see the holiday light display as a way to bring more attention to the Seminole's wellness center, whose name is derived from a $7.9 million “Community Centers Initiative” given to the city by the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.
The 39,000-square-foot center includes two basketball courts, an indoor walking track, workout areas with fitness equipment and free weights, three meeting rooms, a kitchen and much more.
“This is a great location because of the center and the outdoor walking track,” Craig said. “This is already a success because people can't believe the number of displays we have for our first get-together. I think we'll add on to it. Oh, I know we will, because we had people who did not get to sponsor one that wanted to. I just think it's something that will highlight our community and bring visitors to our town.
“It shows what Seminole's about — togetherness.”