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First City of Lights: Night We Light' celebration, parade today

Don't miss the chance to see charismatic Christmas characters walking down Beltrami Avenue Northwest tonight for the "Night We Light" celebration.

The 14th annual First City of Lights parade will begin at 6 p.m. today. The route begins at Eighth Street and Beltrami Avenue Northwest and will travel south to Third Street and Irvine Avenue Northwest.

This year's Night We Light festivities are expected to attract some 4,000 participants.

"It's a phenomenal event. It's a true family tradition," said Lori Paris, the president of the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce.

The parade goes for about an hour, followed by the annual lighting of the pine trees on the Waterfront Park, near Paul and Babe. The Go & Whoa Harness Club will offer wagon rides through the downtown from the waterfront area.

There will be no parking along the parade route beginning at 5 p.m. Friday until after the parade. Parade-goers will also not be able to park in the Pamida parking lot due to construction.

"People will have to get creative this year in finding spots to park. They'll have to get there early," said Paris.

More than 60 entries have registered for the parade. More are expected to register the day of, said Peggy Hanson, parade coordinator.

The event is sponsored by the Chamber and the city's Downtown Development Authority.

"The Chamber raises the funds. The city gives in-kind donations in providing the labor to put up the lighting at the Waterfront," Paris said.

The annual budget for the Night We Light is about $23,000, which covers the cost of lights and labor for hanging the lights, marketing and sounds. Lights are preordered in the spring.

As of Nov. 25 the Chamber was still $3,000 short in covering the budget costs.

While the parade is in no danger of being canceled, if costs aren't met this year, the number of lights could decrease in the future. Fireworks were cut from last year's festivities and all future celebrations due to funding constraints.

"People can contribute donations after the event. They can drop off checks made out to the First City of Lights. All donations are tax deductable," Paris said.

The lights will be lit until the end of January.

"It's nice to have that glow during the darkest days of the year," Paris said.

For more information, contact the Chamber at 218-444-3541 or visit