Tuesday, Oct 17, 2017

Christmas in Harvard: Annual celebration kicks off the holiday season

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Terry Leonard gives a carriage ride to Mrs. Claus, Heidi Ellis, during the Christmas parade on Dec. 6. HML PHOTO BY JAY SCHULZ

Bright sunshine and mild temperatures greeted Harvard residents, who watched the Christmas parade and attended the Christmas in Harvard festivities Dec. 6.

Christmas in Harvard, held the first Saturday in December, was started in 2006 by the city of Harvard Events Committee. In 2006, the event was held in the Masonic Temple, and then moved the following year to the second floor of the old city hall building. Three years ago, the event was moved to the Starline Factory.

Starline owner Orrin Kinney volunteered the building for use and is one of the event’s major sponsors.

“We used to have all these events in separate locations,” said Harvard Events Committee member Lori Moller. “Now it’s all in one location.”

“It’s better having it all in one location,” said Harvard City Council member and Harvard Events Committee Chairman Chuck Marzahl. “It’s growing. We’d like to see it grow more and get more people to come out.”

Women for Harvard President Sonia Hernandez said she loves the location.

“This is the perfect venue because everybody can be together, which is ideal,” Hernandez said. “A lot more people can come out and do their shopping. They can see Santa. The space accommodates everyone.”

The day includes the Christmas parade on Ayer Street, shopping with Santa, a craft fair and pictures with Santa Claus.

Marzahl said Christmas in Harvard originally was run by the Women for Harvard and the Harvard Jaycee Ettes in the 1970s and 1980s.

“What people don’t realize is that parents are coming now with their kids, and they used to come when they were kids,” Marzahl said.

The Women for Harvard sponsor Santa Claus, and Hernandez said it is something the group loves doing.

“We do it for the community,” Hernandez said. “We want to bring everyone together. I just find it so great to be able to do an event that parents can count on every year and make a tradition out of it. A lot of it is free. A lot of it is taken care of. Just show up.”

Children are allowed to shop to buy inexpensive presents for their family.

“I think it’s a great asset to the community, something great the kids can do that’s of little or no expense,” Moller said. “You can shop for your family for $20.”

Moller recalled the first year the committee hosted Christmas in Harvard, and a young boy picked out some nail polish and said out loud “My mom’s just going to love this!”

“You see the look in some of the [children’s] eyes, and it’s worth it,” Marzahl said.

Members of the Harvard High School varsity soccer team served as elves this year and helped the young children shop.

“Having the high school kids come up here and be the elves – you get that connection,” Marzahl said. “You’re getting these high school kids involved in the community. To me, it’s a win, win situation.”

Two of the local 4-H Clubs – Milk Center 4-H and Prairie Toppers 4-H – also helped with the event.

Hernandez said work has already begun for next year’s event.

“Santa Claus is already booked for next year,” Hernandez said.