Spectacular start to the season

Hundreds crowded around Main Street Friday evening for the Christmas tree lighting thrown by the Minot Downtown Business and Professional Association. The event marked the height of the association’s Olde Fashioned Christmas Open House, with downtown bedecked with wreaths and ribbons while participating businesses catered to merry meanderers with warm refreshments and toasty fires.

Minot firefighters had helped put up the wreaths and ribbon on lampposts, and shopkeepers took care to put up their holiday decorations in all the storefront windows. Musicians played their instruments, kebabs were passed out to passersby hot from the grill, and there was even a Santa sighting or two. In all it made for a relaxed, cheery sort of atmosphere, in marked contrast with the tents, long lines and sudden stampedes lately associated with the day after Thanksgiving.

“We’ve got that hometown feeling,” explained Bonny Kemper, the downtown association’s president.

The centerpiece of this celebration was the 20-foot blue spruce donated by Rosella and Francis Pfeifer, which crewmen from TC Nursery had transported downtown earlier this month and workers from Real Builders helped them to transplant from the truck bed into a three-ton concrete stand at the middle of North Main Street.

Despite disagreeable weather, volunteers from SRT installed the tree’s 17,640 lights.

“They did a marvelous job,” Kemper said. “It’s like a beacon in the sky.” The lights on the tree match more than 21,000 others strung all along Main Street, with another 1,000 red lights on and around the fountain.

There is no star topping the blue spruce, largely because it would be difficult to keep up during a heavy wind.

“I think there’s beauty in simplicity,” Kemper noted.

Livening up the mood in the run-up to the lighting were four of “The Five of Us,” a local choral group. Backed by a sound system provided by Funtyme Karaoke, their carols carried far up the street, drawing people in for the evening’s climax.

VIPs on the platform included Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman and Fr. Justin Waltz, of St. Leo’s Catholic Church. Though a train rumbled noisily nearby in the background, Zimbelman’s remarks stressed the importance of remembering “the reason for the season,” or the birth of Jesus. The reverend likewise shared a passage from the Biblical account of Luke and delivered a short blessing before the final countdown.

When the lights switched on, the energetic crowd was treated to a dazzling display: Fireworks fired from behind the Old Soo Depot Transportation Museum surprised onlookers and illuminated the street.

“It’s a wonderful finale,” Kemper said. This is the first time that the holiday open house has incorporated fireworks into the lighting ceremony.

“It keeps growing larger every year,” Peggy’s Gift Shoppe owner, Peggy Beach, said of the event. She enjoys the tradition, and has noticed that other people do as well. “It becomes more meaningful as it goes on.”