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Community braves cold for tree lighting

The annual Park Rapids Community Christmas Tree Lighting Celebration was Friday night. At left, Brenda Johnson sings carols with her grandchildren, Khloe and Kaelyn VanNorman. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)1 / 3
Santa makes an appearance downtown. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)2 / 3
The Bagstad family emceed Friday night's downtown tree lighting. From left are Anita, Amelia, Isabel, Gabe and Lance. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)3 / 3

People gathered downtown Friday evening to sing carols and celebrate the annual Park Rapids Community Christmas Tree Lighting Celebration, Yuletide Sampler and Live Nativity despite chilly temperatures.

This celebration was made possible through the dedication of many volunteers, merchants, Chamber of Commerce board members, staff and their families.

Santa also stopped downtown for a special visit from the North Pole during this busy season.

This year's tree was donated by Daryl Robbins and delivered by Steve and Robin Walsh of Dick Walsh Forest Products.

"We extend a big thank you to Steve and Robin Walsh for their generous help with getting the tree cut and placed on Main Avenue," said Katie Magozzi, Chamber executive director. "The brothers have donated their time and equipment for many years to make the Park Rapids community Christmas tree the holiday centerpiece we all anticipate and treasure."

Magozzi also extends a thank you to Minnesota Power, Chamber Board Member Peter Young of the Y Steak House, Ron Ahmann of R&R Rental, Police Chief Terry Eilers, Scott Burlingame and the city of Park Rapids.

"We thank all of you for giving your time and talent to cutting, delivering, lighting and decorating the tree," she said.

Park Rapids downtown merchants and area businesses provided a variety of goodies Friday night to hungry customers. This has become a downtown tradition each Friday after Thanksgiving. Downtown businesses were also hopping Saturday for "Small Business Saturday."

The Park Rapids Area Home School Association presented a Live Nativity complete with a stable and live animals on Main before the tree lighting.

Lance Bagstad, superintendent of the Park Rapids Schools, emceed the tree lighting ceremonies along with his wife, Anita, and children, Isabel, Gabe and Amelia. Paul Dove conducted the choir and led the audience in carols. Sherm Anderson, Anderson's Starlight Bay Resort, provided the sound.

The 2012 event also marked the 25th anniversary of partnering with the St. Joseph's Area Health Services Hospice "Light Up a Life" program to light the tree with bulbs honoring the memory of a friend, loved one or someone living you wish to honor. The Hospice family of Zelda Little, wife of Guy Little, lit the tree this year.

Children were invited to share their Christmas wish lists after the tree lighting. He will return to Bella Caffé Saturdays, Dec. 1, 8, 15 and 22. Remember to bring your camera!

Free Christmas matinees sponsored by Park Theater and local businesses will continue at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1 ("Dolphin Tale"), Dec. 8 ("Three Stooges"), Dec. 15 ("Happy Feet 2") and Dec. 22 ("Dr. Seuss: The Lorax").

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561