UCROSS — The seventh annual Ucross Community Christmas Celebration will send fireworks into the sky over snow-covered hills and light the dark winter evening with hundreds of light-wrapped trees.
Sheridan County is full of holiday traditions this time of year. But for those who are a few miles from Sheridan or Buffalo, the Ucross celebration is a chance for rural neighbors to come together in the spirit of Christmas and share the season with a celebration of the arts, Ucross Foundation president Sharon Dynak said.
With music by Taylor Corum, carols by the Buffalo Balladiers, crafts for children and a live reading by author Craig Johnson, the event is a chance to celebrate the season and recognize the importance of creativity in daily life, Dynak said. After Ucross encountered fire safety issues with a Fourth of July fireworks display several years ago, founder Raymond Plank developed the idea for a Christmas display to celebrate peace on earth, Dynak said. Many have said watching fireworks burst over the snow is a rare and beautiful experience, she said.
The tree lighting is uplifting during such early and dark winter nights, Dynak said. It further recognizes Plank’s dedication to trees throughout his life.
The event is a gift from Ucross to the community. But there’s a system of give and take — several power employees are volunteering to help with the tree lights and residents are invited to donate nonperishable food items Ucross will distribute to people in need.
Ucross staff are compiling a group donation to a local organization yet to be determined, Dynak said. One Ucross resident is donating his time to shoot a Civil War cannon just before the fireworks begin.
Johnson began a tradition of his own, reading stories during the holiday season after he sent a short story to his website subscribers as a Christmas morning surprise in 2006. The next year, readers were asking for more.
A single short story is essentially useless on its own after it has been published in a magazine, Johnson said. So each year, he has written a short story to share at the holidays — six of which are compiled in an anthology. This year, he is reading “Who’s Your Daddy?”
Johnson said as one of the “illlustrious 25” Ucross residents, he is happy to contribute his narrative skills to the Ucross Community Christmas celebration.
Even with thousands of fans across the globe, Johnson said home is the most important place to be.
Part of what Johnson appreciates about coming home to Ucross is the level of understanding residents are likely to have for the characters and settings of his books, he said.
Dynak said while the event honors Christmas, Ucross attempts to be inclusive and open with the features of the celebration — the event is open to everyone regardless of religious orientation.
Ucross went “over the top” the first year of the celebration, Dynak said. Over the years, the organization has focused the event to include the most special elements that people have come to expect and appreciate as an annual tradition.
Free and open to all, the event is set for Saturday, Dec. 14, from 4-6 p.m.