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The Christmas season kicked off with style in Farmington on Tuesday night when the Krekeler Jeweler’s Christmas Parade brought a fun-loving Grinch to Columbia Street as snow flurries provided a perfect backdrop for the opening of Winter Wonderland afterward.

When asked in the past why he and his wife, Sheila, began sponsoring the annual Christmas parade more than a decade ago, Jeff Krekeler replied, “We love Christmas."

Krekeler explained that their oldest son had just turned 2 years old when the opportunity for a new Christmas parade sponsor opened.

“We were looking forward to the parade and Winter Wonderland,” Krekeler said. “Sponsoring the parade seemed like a perfect fit for Krekeler Jewelers and my family.”

In the years since, the parade has continued to grow and improve every Christmas season. It has become such a strong Parkland tradition that many people can't imagine celebrating the holidays without it.

Tuesday evening began with a new event this year — a Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony held on the St. Francois County Courthouse Square. Candy Zarcone of the Farmington Regional Chamber and County Commissioner Gay Wilkinson greeted the crowd of about 200 who came out to sing along with Christmas favorites like “Jingle Bells,” "Silent Night,” “White Christmas” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" performed by special guests Sam Gallaher and Jessie and Dennis Boyd.

In addition, the crowd was entertained by the Farmington School of Dance Performing Group who danced to the song, “Perfect Christmas Night.”

Concluding the event was “Sarah Barton Murphy” — one of the founders of Farmington — who greeted the crowd and then pushed the button that lit the Christmas tree for all to see.

Another big draw just down the street was Santa’s reindeer, “Prancer,” who was available for free photos with kids of all ages.

While the weather outside was somewhat frightful, the parade, as always, was delightful with creative and colorful floats that brought the Grinch and Christmas to live in a whimsical sort of way — just right for this year’s parade theme, “A Seussical Christmas,” as hosted by the Farmington Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Of course, the best was saved for last as Santa and Mrs. Claus came into town riding on a brightly lit Farmington fire truck. The couple waved and shouted greetings at the crowds before spending special time with the children afterward at Winter Wonderland at Long Memorial Hall.

Parade winners this year were Best In Show: Belgrade State Bank; Float: First Place, All Saints Episcopal Church, Second Place, First State Community Bank; Walking Unit: First Place, BKMB, Second Place, EMAA Head Start; Motorized Unit: First Place, Farmington Fire Department, Second Place, Hefner's Furniture; Equestrian Unit: First Place, Belgrade State Bank.

Laura Raymer, the chamber’s director of events and program marketing, was thrilled about this year’s parade — and loved the bit of snow that came with it.

“I thought it was fantastic,” she said. “We had more floats than ever before. We had some new folks that haven’t joined us in the past and so I was glad to see them come out and be part of the event.

“The weather was perfect for a Christmas parade. We had Prancer, we had the tree lighting, we had live music, kettle corn — all kinds of great stuff. To me it was a perfect night for a parade in downtown Farmington.”

Following the parade, Santa and Mrs. Claus joined the Black Knight Marching Band to officially open Winter Wonderland at Long Memorial Hall located at 110 W. Columbia St. Hosted by the City of Farmington Parks & Recreation Department, Winter Wonderland features the largest G-Scale rated train display in southeast Missouri.

Winter Wonderland is open weeknights from 6 to 8 p.m. from now until Dec. 21 and is free to the public.

For special group viewing on weekdays, please contact Pam Inman, Parks and Recreation, at 756-0900 ext. 1217 or by email at pinman@farmington-mo.gov.

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Kevin R. Jenkins is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-518-3628 or srobinson@farmingtonpressonline.com

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