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Holiday charm: Community tree lights up the night

A warm, winter evening greeted the many who stopped downtown Park Rapids for Friday's festivities.

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Santa Claus lends some magic and helps Amy Pillsbury pull the switch, lighting up the tree.
Shannon Geisen/Enterprise
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Downtown Park Rapids was abuzz with holiday cheer on Friday, Nov. 25.

Warm weather attracted shoppers and revelers to the Yuletide Sampler and tree-lighting ceremony.

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Shannon Geisen/Enterprise

Hosted by the Park Rapids Downtown Business Association, Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and CHI St. Joseph's Health Hospice, the annual event has been held for over 35 years.

Participating downtown merchants offered hot cider and numerous Christmas treats.

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Connie Anderson steadily doles out scotcheroos. She works for Rustic Cabin Decor.
Shannon Geisen/Enterprise

Connie Anderson moved to the area last year and built a house. “I just thought, ‘Maybe I should get a job, something to do, meet people. So that’s what I’m doing!” she said as she dispersed scotcheroos to visitors at Rustic Cabin Decor.

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Camree Carlson sang carols at her mother's candy store, Enjoy. She's a junior at the University of Jamestown.
Shannon Geisen/Enterprise

Camree Carlson’s lovely voice sent carols throughout the Enjoy candy store, while Fran Gack sang for patrons at Beyond Juice.

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Fran Gack crooned to Beyond Juice patrons at Friday's event.
Shannon Geisen/Enterprise

Outside, families gathered around campfires to roast marshmallows. Parenting Solutions handed out the roasting sticks and kept the fires burning. Walmart donated the marshmallows.

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Shannon Geisen/Enterprise

Abide Vineyard Church handed out free hot cocoas.

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Derek Ricke, the Park Rapids Chamber of Commerce president/CEO, emcees the tree-lighting ceremony. Carolers await the sing-along behind him.
Shannon Geisen/Enterprise

Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber President Derek Ricke served as emcee of the Heartland Lakes community tree-lighting ceremony. Camp Wilderness donated the 40-foot spruce.

“Not only do we get to light up this tree tonight and kick off the spirit of Christmas, but this is something – through your donations and support of hospice in this community – that has a lasting impact throughout the year,” Ricke said.

After thanking all of the organizers and volunteers at Friday’s event, Ricke said, “With that, let’s fire up the Christmas spirit with our first carols of the night.”

Carolers from Classic Chorale and Calvary Lutheran Church led a Christmas sing-along, directed by Deane Johnson.

CHI St. Joseph’s Hospice director Jessica Jensen said, "What a great night for such a gathering, for such a wonderful event. For almost four decades, St. Joseph’s Hospice has been lighting a tree where each bulb burns in honor, in memory and in thanks of our loved ones that are no longer with us.”

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Over the past year, Jensen said the hospice program provided care for more than 170 families in the area. She introduced Amy Pillsbury, whose husband and father received end-of-life care. Grant Nunn passed away from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in October 2020, and Robert Pillsbury died of colon cancer in April this year.

Amy thanked friends, church families and hospice for their help during the illnesses. “Both of them had a long haul, and we feel very blessed and thankful to have all of your support,” she said.
Following a countdown, Amy and Santa Claus pulled the switch to light up the tree.

The community is invited to place an unbreakable ornament on a Christmas tree, located in Pioneer Park, in honor of a loved one.

Children may put their letters to Santa Claus in a special mailbox at Pioneer Park as well.

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Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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