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Thousands turn out to light up downtown Bemidji

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Aglow with Christmas lights, the sounds of holiday music and candy for the children, the 15th annual Night We Light parade turned out one of its biggest crowds of the year Friday night in downtown Bemidji.

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More than 70 floats entered - a few powered by horses and humans, most pulled by vehicles - to form a festive line down Beltrami Avenue. The display kicked off the festival season in the Northland and thousands of spectators turned out as temperatures by nightfall remained in the upper 30s, much warmer than last year's 9 degrees.

"This was a really big crowd," said Roxi Mann, chair of this year's parade, which was followed by the Lighting of the Pines. "I thought it was marvelous. People's creativity just amazes me."

The number of entries might not have been a record, but participation was higher.

"We've had over 70 before, but not the last few years," said Mann, who estimated about 60 floats entered in each of the past few parades.

Mann the parade draws about 4,000 spectators each year, but more when it's warmer outside.

While Mann has helped organize the event for the past 13 years, this was her last at the helm.

She helped train others for next year and plans to retire from organize the annual festive event.

"It's time for new blood," she said Friday. "I'm ready for some new challenges."

Here are the float winners for the categories in this year's event:

Overall: North County Snowmobile Club

Use of lights: Bob's Econo Pump

Community: Lloyd Holy family

Business: Nature's Edge Garden Center

Club: ABATE

Media: RP Broadcasting

Youth use of lights: Girl Scouts Troupe 173

Youth, creativity: Bemidji High School football team

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