By Matt Decker

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Nov. 29, 2018) — Lights, music and plenty of holiday spirit will be in the air when Fort Leonard Wood holds its annual Tree Lighting. The celebration, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Plaza.

Activities will be held on and around the southwest corner of the plaza’s parking lot — the same location as last year’s festivities — according to LoraLee Neubeck, special events coordinator with the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Installation Wide Events Office.

“We will begin at 5:30 p.m. with the tree-lighting ceremony,” Neubeck said. “We will have the (Child and Youth Services) children sing carols, and the 399th Army Band will also play Christmas music. Just before the tree lighting, we will have a chaplain give the invocation, followed by the arrival of Santa Claus on a fire truck.”

After the arrival of Santa, a Fort Leonard Wood senior leader will conduct the official tree lighting, which will signal the opening of the activity tents that are open for attendees of all ages.

“After the tree lighting, the activity tents will be open from 6 to 7 p.m.,” Neubeck said. “There will be snacks and beverages, along with varying activities, some of which are still being worked out. We will have a section with horses for children to pet and feed, and there will be games like Plinko, a ring toss and lassoing a reindeer. Some areas will have arts and crafts, where children can make small crafts or complete a coloring sheet. They’ll also be able to visit and get their pictures taken with Santa.”

Throughout the event, children with the SKIES program will provide entertainment.

The celebration is also an opportunity for organizations participating in the Cards to the Community contest to showcase their displays. Military units, businesses, families and individuals can still enter the contest to decorate the best large, plywood holiday “Christmas card.” Details and building guidelines are available online at

“We actually have nine registrations so far for Cards to the Community,” Neubeck said. “(Friday) is the registration deadline, so there’s still time to enter. To enter, they can simply call the Installation Wide Events office at 573.596.6913. It’s free to enter, and open to anyone who wants to participate.”

During the celebration, FMWR officials will select the top three cards and name one card the best-overall entry.

For more information, see the event listing at

Cards to the Community entries are displayed during last year’s celebration. File photo
Visitors view the lighted tree for the first time during Fort Leonard Wood’s tree-lighting celebration in 2017 at the MSCoE Plaza parking lot. This year’s celebration will be held in the same location, with activities following music and a brief opening ceremony. File photos