Community Christmas tree ushers in merriment
Harvested on Sunday and embellished on Monday, the community Christmas tree is ready for Friday's festivities.
If the fresh snow didn’t put you in the holiday spirit, perhaps the community Christmas tree will.
Giant ornaments and festive lights adorn the roughly 40-foot spruce in downtown Park Rapids.
On Monday, linemen from Itasca-Mantrap Electric Co-op and Minnesota Power teamed up to bedeck the tree.
Kimball Logging Company harvested it on Sunday, placing it in the center of Main Avenue.
This year’s Christmas tree was donated by Camp Wilderness. Missy Hendrickx is camp director and a Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce board member.
“She was like, ‘Hey, we have a lot of trees!’” said Chamber President/CEO Derek Ricke, adding Hendrickx suggested three potential Christmas trees located in a camp clearing. “So she volunteered that.”
Others in town offered trees, but Ricke said they weren’t quite a good fit.
Hendrickx said, "Park Rapids has been an exceptional community to be part of over the 75-plus years we have been here. There are a lot of local residents and businesses that have been very good to us over all those decades. I think this chance to give back reflects the fact that we care for this community a lot."
She continued, "I personally have been inspired for us to give back, and I joined the Park Rapids Chamber Board of Directors in September 2021. It is great to be part of a wonderful group of individuals."
In late September, Ricke and Hendrickx scouted Camp Wilderness.
"The tree geographically came from near the center, or heart, of Camp Wilderness," Hendrickx said. "When the Chamber approved of our donation, I called our full-time ranger, Andy Kietzman, and asked if he knew of a tree that would go perfect on Main Street for the holidays. He immediately thought of three."
Ricke recalled, chuckling, “Then I went out there with Kelly Kimball. ‘Ok, here’s the three we located. Which one do you think won’t fall over?’”
In 2020, wind gusts toppled the holiday tree, sending it crashing onto Main Avenue, damaged beyond repair.
Hendrickx added, "We would love to continue to give back to the community in any way that we can. If this becomes a lifelong tradition for Camp Wilderness to provide a beautiful tree, we would absolutely love to."
Justin Kimball said family members – himself, Kelly, Zach and Cory – helped chop, transport and raise the tree, along with employees Donny Pachel, Zach Munsch and Tyler Henry.
“My mom, Michele, was busy helping out with the grandchildren,” Justin said. “The main concern with hauling the trail down the highway is strapping down the limbs so they aren’t too wide to hit other vehicles or too tall to hit the power lines. We usually have to trim the butt of the tree down a bit to fit it into the hold on Main street. Then we lift the tree top up with our loader, high enough for the tree to slide into the hole.”
The community Christmas tree has been a decades-long partnership between the Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, the Park Rapids Downtown Business Association and CHI St. Joseph’s Health Hospice Care.
The tree-lighting ceremony on Friday, Nov. 25 will follow the Yuletide Sampler, which is 5 to 6 p.m., in downtown Park Rapids.
Participating businesses host this annual event as a way to thank the community for their support all year and to kickoff holiday shopping.
Shoppers and revelers are invited to sing Christmas carols, welcome Santa’s arrival and count down to the tree lighting.