Lawrence will mark the official start of the holiday season with a tree lighting ceremony and visit from Santa tonight in downtown Lawrence.
The festivities will begin at 5 p.m. with entertainment along Massachusetts Street.
Mayor Sue Hack will read a proclamation announcing the commencement of The Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign at 5:30 p.m. in front of US Bank at Ninth and Massachusetts streets. She then will count down for the lighting ceremony.
The official ceremony will conclude with Santa being rescued from atop Weaver's Department Store, 901 Mass., by Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical personnel. After being rescued, Santa will visit with children.
Downtown Lawrence and The Salvation Army are kicking off the holiday season today, complete with a visit from old St. Nick.
Carolers and the lighting of downtown may help put people in the holiday spirit, said Jane Pennington, executive director of Downtown Lawrence. And The Salvation Army is hopeful that that spirit includes generosity as it launches its Red Kettle Campaign, a fundraiser to help people in need.
The campaign ceremonies begin at 5:30 p.m. in front of the US Bank building at the corner of Ninth and Massachusetts streets. The Dickens Carolers and the Kaw Valley Fife and Drum Corps perform at 5 p.m. At 5:45 p.m., Mayor Sue Hack will proclaim the beginning of the campaign, just before Santa Claus makes his appearance on the roof of Weaver's Department Store.
Salvation Army Lt. Wesley Dalberg said he enjoys making the campaign part of an event.
"What we like about it is it makes it part of a community event not just a couple of people standing on a corner," Dalberg said. "It looks like this event is going to be bigger and better this year."
The campaign's goal is to raise $102,000, which helps sustain programs and services for people in Douglas County. Those programs include providing coats, toys, food, housing and rent assistance during the holidays and throughout the year, Dalberg said.
"The money is not just something used at Christmastime," Dalberg said. "That's why it's important to raise as much at Christmas as possible."
Dalberg said he is positive The Salvation Army will reach its goal.
"I think that we will not have any real difficulties raising it," he said. "It's hard to tell now because we're in the early weeks ... and people are not quite in the giving mood yet."
Throughout the campaign, people can make donations online at www.onlineredkettle.com. In Lawrence, Dalberg said most of the money raised lands in the red kettles around the city instead of over the Internet.
"The bulk of our funds will assuredly come from people walking by a kettle and dropping money in and, of course, direct mail and all that stuff we normally do," he said.