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Yuletide kick-off is Friday

Santa and his reindeer will be navigating through the stars from the North Pole Friday, descending on Main to officially declare the beginning of holiday merriment.

The annual Park Rapids yuletide sampler begins at 5 p.m. with refreshments served at downtown retailers. The Christmas tree lighting event begins at 6 p.m. and Santa is promising a magical evening filled with caroling, food, shopping and good cheer.

The Park Rapids Area Home School Group will present performances of a live nativity, complete with a stable and live animals, at 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. at Pioneer Park.

Beth Funk, St. Joseph's Hospice executive director, will emcee the event. This year's hospice family, Norma Henke and daughters Shari, Rhonda, and Mary, will light the tree.

Dr. Paul Dove will conduct the choir and lead the audience in carols. Sound will be provided by Matt Winskowski.

Jolly old St. Nick invites kids to share their Christmas wish lists when he visits and brings reindeer corn treats to The Good Life Café on Main.

He'll be lending a listening ear after the tree lighting ceremony Friday and return from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturdays, Nov. 26 and Dec. 3, 10 and 17 and Friday, Dec. 23. Cameras are welcome.

Park Theater will present free Saturday matinees at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. beginning Nov. 26. This is sponsored by local businesses.

This year's tree was donated anonymously. Steve and Robin Walsh of Dick Walsh Forest Products placed the tree on Main.

The celebration is made possible through volunteers, merchants and Chamber board members, Ambassadors, staff and their families.

Several others "elves" help make the tree light up, including Minnesota Power, Chamber board member Peter Young, city councilman Paul Utke, police chief Terry Eilers, public works director Scott Burlingame and the city of Park Rapids.

The community tree lighting is in partnership with St. Joseph's Hospice "Light Up a Life" program. The tree will be lit by bulbs honoring the memory of a friend or loved one or to honor someone living. A gift of $5 will symbolically light up a light on the community Christmas tree through New Year's.

To sponsor a bulb, contact St. Joseph's Hospice at 732-4552.

For more information on the tree lighting event, contact the Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce at 732-4111.