CARTHAGE, Mo. — The consensus among many seems to be that the bounce houses, ice skating rink and inflatable maze set up just south of the Carthage square are a hit and an addition to the holidays in Carthage.

For Kiah Hartin, 5, of Carl Junction, the bounce houses and slides were especially fun during the late November startup of Carthage’s new Hometown Holidays event.

Brecklynn Scott, 5, of Carthage, had fun making new friends and spending time with her family. Aliyrah Smith, 4, of Carthage had two words for the event: “I’m good.”

When asked the opening weekend what success looked like for Vision Carthage, the committee that brought Hometown Holidays to town, member and volunteer Lora Phelps said: “I think it’s already happened.”

The attraction will run through Jan. 1.

“People are enjoying it; people are downtown,” Phelps said. “It’s something new. It’s starting new traditions. Of course we have cold, hard goals we want to make too, but it’s all about the experience for the families of Carthage and from anywhere. It’s for everyone who comes here.”

Opening weekend

Vision Carthage Executive Director Abi Almandinger said more than 1,200 people came to Hometown Holidays in the two days after Thanksgiving, the first two days of its scheduled monthlong run.

Hometown Holidays is a pop-up entertainment venue set up on Fifth Street and in parking lots between Fifth and Sixth streets along Main Street just south of the square. It consists of two big bounce houses for kids and adults. One of the bounce houses is inside a 20-foot-tall inflatable hill and slide while the other one is inside an inflatable snowman. Another element is an inflatable “snow maze.”

One of the more unusual elements is a simulated ice rink that allows people to ice skate in temperatures above freezing.

“It’s amazing having an ice skating rink in Carthage, and you don’t have to travel anywhere,” said Arkell Smith, of Carthage, who came with three other family members, including 4-year-old niece Aliyrah Smith. “For a lot of us, it was our first time on ice skates, and it’s right here in Carthage, so that’s amazing.”

“I wasn’t as good as I thought I was going to be going into it, so I’m going to have to come back tomorrow and do better,” said Azia Smith, Aliyrah’s mom. “It’s not quite ice, but I was OK with that because it would have been colder falling on real ice.”

Almandinger said the first weekend had a few kinks, but it went well considering it was the first time anyone with Vision Carthage had hosted something like this.

“It’s gone so wonderfully,” Almandinger said. “We’ve been thrilled with the response, and just people seem like they’re having a lot of fun.”

Fun for all ages

Almandinger said the event was supposed to attract people from out of town to Carthage, among other things.

Kirk and Krystia Hartin, of Carl Junction, brought their daughter, Kiah, 5, and two nephews, Isaiah, 9, and Riker, 6, to Hometown Holidays last weekend and said they’ll be back.

“It’s fun, this is good for their first year,” Kirk Hartin said. “They need some hot cocoa and some vendors in here, but man, what a good time. The maze was fantastic. We went through that two or three times because it was fun. We did the ice skating, and Isaiah bet me $5 he wouldn’t fall. I got $5, and it was epic, feet went out, it was perfect.”

Kiah Hartin said she had fun and definitely wants to come back.

“I liked the slide,” she said. “I liked the hill. There’s lots of stuff to play on here. The ice skating was so-so.”

Jess Leber, of Carthage, said she came here with 11 members of her family ranging from children to grandparents, and everyone was having a great time.

“I think it’s awesome that we finally have something in Carthage,” Leber said. “The kids love it, they could spend all night out here. I think it’s really cool that you can ice skate in Carthage. I feel like the prices are fair. It’s really affordable that you can pay as a family and it’s not individual. I also really like that you can reserve your times so you don’t have to wait to ice skate.”

Maddie Crocker, a sophomore at Carthage High School, visited the event last weekend with her mother, Megan Scott, and sister, Brecklynn Scott, setting up a tent for their Swanky Taters food business. They sold drinks and cotton candy, and they had fun when the crowd was thinner.

“I think it’s a good experience to get to hang out with Brecklynn, and I also think it’s fun and cool, especially the skating rink,” Crocker said. “It’s not really ice — it’s plastic — but it’s just fun. We have our food tent back there too, so I get to do a little family business and I get to walk Brecklynn around and have fun with her.”

Brecklynn Scott was enjoying herself too.

“It’s cool. I get to spend time with my family, and I get to make new friends,” she said.

steadley trust aid

Almandinger said the Vision Carthage committee was brainstorming in recent months on ways to bring more fun events to Carthage and bring local residents and visitors from out of town, especially to the Carthage square, when one committee member happened on a company that rented out the simulated skating rink and other fun things for events.

Almandinger said the committee was trying to think of ways to start new traditions in Carthage, and these things seemed to be the ticket.

“We made a proposal to the Steadley Trust and presented that to them, and they really loved our idea,” Almandinger said, adding, “The reason we sell tickets is to be able to continue on after this year. The Steadley Trust said, ‘We won’t fund you every year, but we’ll help you get started.’ So that allowed us to pay to rent the ice skating rink and all of the inflatables and activities for Hometown Holidays.”

Almandinger said Carthage residents get a little better rate than people from out of town. Cost is $5 per person and $15 per family of two adults and up to four children for Carthage residents, and $10 per person and $25 per family for general admission.

Ice skating is an additional $5 per person.

The space is also available for private events on certain days.

For a full calendar and more details, visit Almandinger said volunteers are still needed to help out at the event; people can sign up on the Vision Carthage website.

People can also watch the Vision Carthage Facebook page for announcements regarding food trucks that might be present on specific days and information about visits from Santa.

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