Traditions are a part of the holidays. For many Pettis County residents and visitors, the holiday season will begin Thanksgiving night with the fireworks extravaganza and lighting ceremony at the historic Hotel Bothwell.
2019 marks the 17th year for the event that has grown into a community gathering attended by several thousand people each year.
David Furnell, whose family owns Hotel Bothwell, said at the first ceremony most of the guests in attendance “peppered only one city block to the several thousand who now attend.”
Planning for the event begins in August and is a busy four months, according to all those involved with the event.
More than a quarter-mile of lights attached to the exterior of the hotel must be checked and inspected. Wreaths and garland are hung on the front façade as well as rooftop trees decorated in lights that must be secured.
The firework display is 15 minutes of magic as colorful fireworks set to holiday music illuminate the sky.
The holiday festivities fill the inside of the hotel as well, according to Senior Accounting Officer for Furnell Companies Deidre Esquivel who has been spearheading the interior hotel decorating since the event began in 2002.
“We have a running joke here that ‘when you think you can’t put any more ornaments on the tree, that’s when Deidre gives you another box,’” Esquivel said with a laugh. “I really don’t think you can ever have too many ornaments on a tree.”
The hotel has 15 decorated trees including a 14-foot tree in the lobby that is the centerpiece of the collection.
According to Esquivel, each tree is decorated with approximately 200 ornaments and decorative items. All of the ornaments and gift items are available for sale. More than 100 strands of lights and at least two city blocks worth of garland are also used on the trees.
On Friday, Nov. 29, individuals may receive a 40% discount on any ornament or holiday decorations.
Hotel employees devote more than a week of their time decorating the trees, lobby and common areas of the hotel’s interior. The spaces have become a popular attraction for families and guests to visit. Many come to take photographs in front of the trees that then become images for Christmas cards. Several students from Smith-Cotton High School also come to the hotel to be photographed in front of the trees before attending the Archives Ball.
Esquivel begins to consider the orders for the ornaments and gift items which are all available to purchase as early as February.
“I usually don’t place the orders until May or June,” Esquivel explained. “David usually doesn’t like to think about Christmas that early but you can’t get what you want if you wait any longer.”
All of the staff who help decorate the hotel work on the 14-foot tree.
“We all work on that one,” Esquivel said. “A few of us take ownership of a couple of the other trees – we tend to get a little protective of our trees.”
Describing the decorating as a labor of love, Esquivel said, “it is nice to get away from my desk for a week and do this.”
For Furnell, the goal is simple: “when you walk in the hotel the spirit of the holidays surrounds you.”
“Our family is proud to be a part of the historic downtown Sedalia,” he continued. “We look for this event to allow our family and employees to share not only the pride we have in the historic Hotel Bothwell but also all of Sedalia and Pettis County. We look forward to seeing everyone downtown Thanksgiving night and sharing in the celebration of holidays.”