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Here comes Santa!

THE COMMUNITY BONFIRE held at the Detroit Lakes City Park prior to Monday night's parade was surprisingly well attended despite the blustery weather. Santa visited with the bonfire attendees prior to heading over to the parade, which started inside the park before heading up Washington Avenue to the mall. Attendees also enjoyed hot chocolate and Christmas cookies. (Brian Basham/Tribune)1 / 4
THIS horse-drawn wagon (above) was the Becker County Historical Society's entry. (Brian Basham/Tribune)2 / 4
Santa also made an appearance at the mall after the parade, where he enjoyed talking with Maci and Carter Bellefeuille. (Brian Basham/Tribune)3 / 4
Mount Tabor Masonic lodge in Detroit Lakes sponsored one of two Santa-themed floats at Monday night's Grand Parade of Lights in Detroit Lakes. The holiday parade took place as scheduled despite extremely snowy, blustery conditions in the lakes area. (Brian Basham/Tribune)4 / 4

It was a snowy, blustery Monday evening in Detroit Lakes.

But that didn't seem to deter the four dozen or so local residents who came out to enjoy the community bonfire late that afternoon, or the 30-odd people who showed up for the American Cancer Society tree lighting at the DL Library later that evening.

And it certainly didn't deter the kids and parents who lined up along Washington Avenue to view Santa's Grand Parade of Lights.

There were more than two dozen entries in the parade, which lasted roughly 40 minutes.

Participants included the Detroit Lakes fire, police and street departments, Arvig Communication Systems, Norby's Department Store, Becker Pet & Garden, Nereson's, the Detroit Lakes Community & Cultural Center, Becker County 4-H, Marco, Community Alliance Church, Mount Tabor Masonic Lodge, Washington Square Mall and Minnesota State Community & Technical College (M State).

"I think it was good -- there weren't any problems," said parade chair Jill Mack. Despite the weather, the number of participants was significantly higher than in previous years.

According to Mack, there were prizes given for the most memorable entries in three categories: The "Lightest & Brightest" Award went to M State; Creativity Award to Becker Pet & Garden, and the Non Profit Award went to Community Alliance Church.

"We had two that we wanted to list as honorable mentions because they were also exceptional floats," she added. "One was the Detroit Lakes Fire Department -- they were lit up just beautifully -- and Wasche's Machine Shop of Perham was a great addition this year too."

The prize packages included radio and newspaper advertising, Chamber Bucks and more.

After the parade, volunteers from the American Cancer Society and about three dozen area residents were on hand for the tree lighting ceremony at the library.

It was the first year that the Cancer Society had sponsored the event. To commemorate the occasion, the ceremony included a presentation from Detroit Lakes City Alderman -- and cancer survivor -- Ron Zeman.

As Zeman noted, "Cancer has affected all of us here in one way or another -- we all know someone who has cancer, or has had it."

Zeman also noted that the Cancer Society has helped many people, from low-income breast cancer screenings for women to housing for cancer patients through its Hope Lodges. (In Minnesota, there are Hope Lodges located at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities.)

Zeman talked about his experience four years ago, when he learned he had developed prostate cancer that spread to his colon.

"I was there (for treatment at the Mayo Clinic) for 3½ months," he said, adding that he stayed at the Hope Lodge in Rochester while he was a patient there.

"Your gifts (to the Cancer Society) do make a difference, in many ways," Zeman said.

The Parade of Lights is just the first of many holiday events taking place in the lakes area over the next several weeks, as was announced during the parade:

The Washington Square Mall will be offering "Photos & Wishes with Santa" every Saturday and Sunday during the first three weekends in December, from noon to 4 p.m. Proceeds from sale of the photos will be given to the Mount Tabor Masonic Lodge, for distribution to area families in need of assistance during the holidays.

There will also be free sleigh rides leaving from the mall parking lot on the first three Saturdays in December, from noon to 3 p.m.; and on Saturday, Dec. 11, the mall will host a Kids' Christmas Party, beginning with free holiday movies at Cinema 5 at 10 a.m., and followed by holiday activities in the mall from noon to 4 p.m.

M State will host "Breakfast with Santa & Mrs. Claus" on Sunday, Dec. 5 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the college cafeteria. Proceeds will benefit children's services programming at the Lakes Crisis & Resource Center in Detroit Lakes.

The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train will stop in Detroit Lakes at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 14, for a special holiday concert. Donations will be collected at the concert for the Becker County Food Pantry.

Other "Light Up the Lakes" events this holiday season will include a series of concerts at the Historic Holmes Theatre, starting this Saturday, Dec. 4, with a performance by the O'Neill Brothers & Katie McMahon at 7:30 p.m. John Berry comes to the Holmes on Saturday, Dec. 11, at 7:30 p.m., and the Lakes Area Community Concert Band will perform its annual holiday concert on Sunday, Dec. 12, at 4 p.m. The "Rock & Roll Christmas Spectacular" will wind up the schedule on Thursday, Dec. 16, at 7:30 p.m.

Christmas at Emmanuel is Saturday, Dec. 4; Norby's Department Store's annual Holiday Customer Appreciation Night takes place on Monday, Dec. 6; the Becker County Historical Society Holiday Tea Party is Saturday, Dec. 11; and Zorbaz on the Beach will hold its annual "Winter Fezt" on Sunday, Dec. 26.

A complete holiday schedule is available at the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce website, www.visitdetroitlakes.com.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454
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