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Light Up the Lakes means big business locally

Free sleigh rides (or wagon rides when there is no snow), is one way Light Up the Lakes helps make the downtown area a cozy, festive place to be this time of year. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham

Few things can light up a kid like Christmas, and few things can light up Christmas in Detroit Lakes like its chamber of commerce.

“Light Up the Lakes is a chamber-sponsored cooperative marketing campaign,” said Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce President Carrie Johnston. “We start Nov. 1 and go through Dec. 31.”

About 30 businesses from the Detroit Lakes area sponsor the two-month long campaign that holds dozens of fun-filled holiday events designed to bring people downtown.

Luminaries, a big parade, free kids movies, free sleigh rides — these are only a few of the big draws for the downtown district and the community.

“It’s that hometown, local feeling that when you have the lights on and the activities going, it’s exactly what you imagine a small town to be during the holidays,” said Johnston. “It’s a good way to just keep that tradition going of having that warm, fuzzy feeling.”

Johnston says aside from summer, the holiday season is one of the biggest highlights for the small businesses around Detroit Lakes, as people make a concerted effort to use “Chamber Bucks” and shop local.

“It’s just a way to at least get people thinking about what they can get here locally before heading out of town or shopping online,” said Johnston, who says both businesses and shoppers have loved Light Up the Lakes for nearly 20 years, as traffic to the chamber’s website goes up with people anxious to see the calendar of events.

“The events at the mall are always a big draw. The concerts around town like the ones at the Holmes Theatre and the churches are big, and the Holiday Train is a really popular event as well,” said Johnston, who says the Canadian Pacific continues to put Detroit Lakes on its list of stops for the annual event showcasing a lighted train and live music from one of the boxcars.

“And it helps collect dollars for our local food shelf, too, because people who come are encouraged to donate at that event,” said Johnston, adding that the same is true for the free kids movies at the Washington Square Mall where admission is a canned food item.

These are the things that help promote organizations and supporting the local missions while keeping our dollars local, she said.

And for the third year, the Detroit Lakes Newspapers is also sponsoring a Merry Christmas Card Event.

Local banks donated a big chunk of the $7,000 in gift cards the DL Newspapers are buying from 34 different area businesses.

Shoppers can pick up a stamp card at many these businesses, and every time the shopper spends $5 or $10 at a local business, they get a stamp.

When that card is filled up, it goes into a drawing for the gift cards, which happens on Dec. 2, 9, 16 and 20.

The win-win event that started Friday means big gift-card sales for local businesses and fun winnings for shoppers.

Although one of the largest and most anticipated events of Light Up the Lakes is coming up on Monday with the Parade of Lights, from here on through Christmas it’ll be tough to find a day when there isn’t a Light Up the Lakes event happening.

For a calendar of events, check out either or