With Thanksgiving over, it's time for Fort Dodge to light up the Christmas season. The annual holiday lighting will be at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the plaza on the corner of Central Avenue and Ninth Street.
This fifth annual event will feature music, Santa Claus and free activities, said Amy Bruno, community development director for the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance.
"It's just a happy night," Bruno said.
After Santa arrives by fire truck, Mayor Matt Bemrich will light the tree, decorated in thousands of lights. Then everyone can walk up the road to the Wahkonsa building at the corner of 10th Street for free hot chocolate, goodies and games.
Inside, Santa will take photos with the kids. Each family can have one photo with Santa printed out for free to take home that night, Bruno said.
Choirs from Fort Dodge Senior High and St. Edmonds will sing at the plaza, as well as the Harmony Brigade men's barbershop chorus.
If you go:
What: Annual GFDGA Holiday Lighting
When: 5:30 to 7 p.m. Monday
Where: Plaza at corner of Ninth Street and Central Avenue; events continue in Wahkonsa lobby, corner of 10th Street and Central Avenue.
Events are free
"Both the Senior High and St. Ed's cheerleaders are volunteering to be Santa's helpers," Bruno said. "They help with face painting, and we have temporary tattoos for kids, and kids can make a Christmas ornament when they're there, and they can decorate cookies."
Library Director Barb Shultz will do some storytelling. There will be a window decorating contest for downtown businesses, with a hay ride to show them off.
"We'll make a ballot of who all is participating, and the hay racks will drive people around so they can look at the windows and vote for their favorite one," said Lisa Knigge, with the GFDGA. "The winner gets a trophy from the Growth Alliance to show off in their place of business for the year."
Covering the tree in lights takes plenty of man-hours by Frontier Communications workers, said Technical Supervisor Dan Halterman.
"I probably had five to six different technicians working on it at any given time," Halterman said.
Most of the work was finished weeks ago, he said, since November weather can be unpredictable. The work requires an aerial lift bucket truck.
The roughly 10,000 lights belong to the GFDGA. City Electrician Steve Matke takes care of laying the power cords and getting everything running.
Halterman hasn't seen the tree lit up yet this year.
"We tested all the lights before we put them up," he said. Last year, he "went by one of the evenings after work, when it got dark. It looks pretty impressive."
Frontier does the work to help out the community.
"It's part of our community activities, giving back," he said.
As in the past, the GFDGA will sell Fort Dodge-themed Christmas items, including ornaments, cards and a cookbook.
This year's cards and ornament feature the courthouse clock. A few of last year's ornament are still available, depicting the gazebo in the city square.
The items will be for sale the night of the lighting, at the GFDGA office, and at numerous businesses downtown.
"One of the things we've found is people want to give gifts to people who maybe used to live here, or have visited here," Bruno said. "There's not too many things that are just about Fort Dodge."
Bruno said she and Lindsey Nevins helped get the holiday tradition started back in 2008.
"The first one, we thought it would be small, but we had hundreds of people," Bruno said.
"Where I lived before, we always had something like this. Where Lindsey lived before, she was from Atlantic, Iowa, they have a whole festival for their town, and they light all their downtown things. We both just thought this would be a great thing to do for Fort Dodge because it's free, it's quick, it gets families down there together, and it's before the season really gets going so it's not too busy."