CAMDENTON, Mo. -- On Friday, winter weather blanketed the Lake of the Ozarks, delivering about an inch of snow and blisteringly cold temperatures that settled in through Saturday.
In hopes of drawing the normally large crowd of visitors to its annual Christmas on the Square, the Camdenton Chamber of Commerce staff announced Friday afternoon the event would be moved from the lawn of the Camden County Courthouse in downtown Camdenton to the Camdenton Middle School.
This last minute change did not stop families from piling into the school's main cafeteria to delve into a variety of activities during Christmas on the Square.
For four hours Saturday, families enjoyed a variety of free activities including hot chocolate and chocolate marshmallows, cookie decorating, a coloring contest, games, visits with the FFA farm animals, stuffed animal giveaways and performances by the Xanadu Dance team and Camdenton school choirs, card making, games, signing Christmas cards for troops overseas, among many others.
At noon, Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived aboard their specially designed sleigh escorted by local firefighters and law enforcement officials. Children were able to visit with Santa, enjoying many other activities until 2 p.m. and carrying on a 20-plus year tradition.
In 1991, Christmas on the Square started with a folding chair, candy canes and Santa Claus. Now, more than 20 years later, Christmas on the Square is one of the most beloved and largest one-day holiday events at the Lake.
"From 1991 to 1993, a cookie table and hot chocolate was added. In 1994, the Camdenton DECA chapter, an association of marketing students, and the chamber put together a public relations campaign project to improve the promotion and organization of Christmas in the community," said Sandy Gentry, administrative assistant at the Camdenton Chamber of Commerce. "The goals of the project were to foster cooperation among civic groups, synchronize events, and enhance the local economy during the peak retail season.
"The Christmas committee is always making plans for the following year, encouraging churches, youth groups, clubs and organizations to get involved," she said, noting in the past few years, Camden County officials donate hams and turkeys to be given away. "For the second year in a row, the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus in a sleigh with the bright lights of the fire trucks is always impressive, and his arrival is the main event."