By: Tom Fink | Category: Recreation/Leisure | Issue: November 2019
Ice skating returns with West Bend Winterland.
Christmas season comes to Claremore early this year with the return of West Bend Winterland to the Claremore Expo Center. Now in its third year, the annual yuletide celebration brings all things yule to northeastern Oklahoma, including skating, hot chocolate and apple cider, Santa Claus, and one the biggest Christmas trees in the state.
“This year’s tree will be a 65-foot Norwegian spruce, our city manager has already selected the perfect tree, and it will be coming to us from Manton, Michigan,” said Tanya Andrews, executive director, Visit Claremore. “A new partner – Melton Truck lines in Catoosa, whom we’re very excited to be partnered with – will be picking it up and delivering it for us.
“The tree lighting ceremony itself will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 2, in the Expo Center parking lot, and this (ceremony) signifies the official beginning of West Bend Winterland,” she continued. “Although we won’t be doing a monthlong Winterland as in the past, we will be hosting several events over the course of the weeks leading up to Christmas to give members of the Claremore and surrounding communities the chance to come out and get into the Christmas spirit.”
A miniature train for the children to enjoy riding, an oversized “snow globe” for photo ops, hot cocoa, and possible food options will coincide with the evening’s kick-off.
Visit Claremore staff Tanya Andrews (from left), Jessica Putz, Wendy Woody, and Allison Burkhead work on finalizing details for the 2019 West Bend Winterland celebration.
In the weeks that follow the tree lighting, special evening events will be held, such as a night for senior citizens, open skating nights, and more.
“We’re really trying to attract a variety of folks in the community, so we want to cater to the senior citizens one evening – have them come out, possibly have a school choir sing Christmas carols for them, offer hot cocoa, and in the spirit of Christmas, really engage them,” she said.
During Open Skate Night – to be held Friday, Dec. 13 and Saturday, Dec. 14 – no admission will be charged to skate on the synthetic ice (skating) rink, with skaters of all ages and skill levels encouraged to participate.
“Ice skating can be difficult, especially for people with little experience or for the very young kids, so we just encourage them, with their parent’s help, to go out on the rink in their socks or if they have sneakers on, to go out with their sneakers on,” Andrews said. “Some kids are a little braver and will put on the skates, but we want everyone to have the chance to know what it feels like to ice skate.”
And what would any Christmas celebration be without an appearance from Kris Kringle himself?
“We’ll have a couple of very special visitors one evening – the first of which is going to be Santa Claus so that children can get their pictures taken with him. We encourage people to bring their phones or cameras to get photographs of their children with Santa,” she said. “That same night will be the Disney princesses provided from a local company called Nerd Alert Customs, Once Upon An Event, a charity costuming group, and they’ll also be available for photos with children.”
Although specially-themed evenings are scheduled, the tree itself will be available to visit and photograph throughout most of December, according to Jessica Putz, Director of Sales and Marketing, Visit Claremore.
“Another night, we’ll be hosting a community ‘Meet At The Tree’ night, during which, we’re inviting people to turn out and maybe say a prayer for the community, meet their neighbors, and take some time to get to know one another, since Christmastime is the season of brotherly love,” Putz said. “We’re thinking of encouraging people to bring out an ornament to place on the tree to help beautify it, and give them a stronger sense that the tree is part of our community.”
“For me, something that I think truly distinguishes this from other Christmas celebrations around the state is our tree,” Andrews said. “Lots of communities may have skating rinks, etc., but the effort of the community and corporate partners to bring something as special as a giant, fresh-cut tree here, to decorate it with lights, and erect it for everyone to appreciate. Some towns may have Christmas drives, where people can drive around and look at lights, but with West Bend Winterland, everything is all in one place for people to enjoy.
“Christmas is a time to reflect, for everyone to put their differences aside and get into the spirit of the season, to be a good neighbor, to be kind to one another,” she said. “(West Bend) Winterland is for everyone, especially the kids, to come out, enjoy a safe environment, maybe do some skating, and just be kids or kids at heart.”
West Bend Winterland is complimentary, made possible by our great partners.
West Bend Winterland festivities will continue through Dec. 31 at the city’s New Year’s Eve Bash, during which, the skating rink will be open, an on-site DJ will provide music, and an apple cider toast will be held to ring in the new year, complete with fireworks at 9 p.m.
West Bend Winterland is made possible by its sponsors, including Melton Truck Lines, RCB Bank, GRDA, BancFirst, IRA Green Construction, the City of Claremore, Claremore Reveille Rotary Club, Casey’s General Store; Rosenstien, Fist & Ringold, Claremore Daily Progress, MoreClaremore, LLC and Visit Claremore.
For more information about West Bend Winterland, or to volunteer, contact Andrews at eat0@eau0eav0eaw0.
Santa Claus will be making a guest appearance Friday and Saturday, Dec. 13 and 14, in Claremore at West Bend Winterland. No professional photography will be on-site, but photos may be taken with cell phones or cameras.
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