BENTON (WSIL) — When the City of Benton celebrates its annual Festival of Lights this Saturday, it will be a bittersweet ceremony as they say goodbye to their historical courthouse and welcome to one to come.
"This will be the last year with our court house, as it is here, on the square," said Public Relations director Rachel Gartner.
They’re putting the final touches on decorating the square for their annual Festival of Lights, only this year, the party is bigger.
"This year we just took it a step further because it is the last year," said Gartner, adding, "We really tried to make it a special year here on the square to kind of say ‘goodbye’ to the courthouse."
The City approved a resolution in March to tear down and build a new Franklin County Courthouse after it was determined the cost of renovation would exceed building a new one. Gartner said she definitely thinks there is going a sense of loss when the courthouse is brought down.
While most everyone agrees losing the courthouse is losing a part of Benton’s history, County Board Chairman Randall Crocker said the new building will be a welcome change.
"I’ve been on the County Board now for almost 20 years and fought the battles of trying to keep the heat going, the air conditioning going, keeping the doors open, so I’m certainly tired of fighting those battles," said Crocker. He adds that staff from the courthouse will begin moving out in late January to a temporary location while the new courthouse is under construction. The county plans to preserve some aspects of the old building into the new building.
Businesses on the square are also bracing for the new construction. Owners of local bistro, Seasoning, Katie Karcher and Troy Ray, say they welcome the change.
"I think it’s going to be a good change," said Ray. "It’s going to be a lot more efficient for the area, it’s also going to be a lot prettier to look at."
The Festival of Lights is scheduled for Saturday, December 7 with a start time of 5 p.m. The celebrations is to include photos with Santa, free horse-drawn wagon rides, free cookies and goodies for kids, Christmas music, free hot chocolate and thousands of lights.