Monday evening Fort Dodge celebrated the season with the annual Holiday Lighting, sponsored by the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance.
A huge crowd gathered at the plaza at Ninth Street and Central Avenue to see the tree lit for the first time. For the younger ones in the crowd, there was a bigger hope.
They were here "because they like to see Santa," said Julie Friesth, of Fort Dodge, as she helped her 4-year-old daughter Emily stay warm.
Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich poses with Santa and Mrs. Claus after lighting the giant Christmas tree on the plaza in downtown Fort Dodge Monday evening.
Emily Friesth got excited when she saw the DART buses arriving at the bus stop next to the plaza.
"Is that Santa? Mommy, is that Santa?" she said.
Before long, a fire truck pulled up to deliver Santa and Mrs. Claus to the eager crowd. Santa and Mayor Matt Bemrich stood on the stage and flipped the switch that set the tree's 10,000 white lights blazing.
Later, the Wahkonsa lobby was packed tight as kids visited with Santa Claus, got their faces painted, and enjoyed free hot chocolate, cider and cookies.
Event organizer Amy Bruno said she had no idea how many people were there, but she'd get an estimate later on by how many cookies were left.
"We started out with 1,500 cookies," Bruno said.
While some children stood in line to get their photo with the Clauses, others wrote letters to Santa and put them in a big box. Kirstyn Garretson, 8, took her time getting the list just right.
What did she ask for?
"A phone, an iPod, and 'Elf on the Shelf,'" she said.
Six-year-old Sebastion Sandvig wrote a note asking for a BB gun with BB's. He said he was on his way to get a temporary tattoo, and then get pictures with Santa.
His favorite part of the evening?
"The hot cocoa, and eating cookies," he said.
Further back, Fort Dodge Senior High and St. Edmond cheerleaders were painting faces and giving out temporary tattoos. Others helped kids make birdfeeders and cookies.
Daniel Klingele, 6, carefully rolled his peanut-buttered pine cone in birdseed after designing his cookie. He'd already been to see Santa, and had made a unique request.
"I want a 10-foot laminator," he said.
"He's been asking for that for three years," said his mother, Sarah Klingele. "Ever since preschool, when they'd laminate everything."
What is he hoping to laminate?
"Stuff," Daniel Klingele said.