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Night We Light opens holiday season in Bemidji area

Only during the Night We Light Parade will you see a five wheel bike dresssed like a banana representing the non-profit business Shifting Gears on Friday night. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer1 / 3
Paul Bunyan with his Christmas ax was a hit with the kids at the annual Night We Light Parade on Friday night. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer2 / 3
Some families found the perfect spot, like (from left) Cassiday Vosika and her mom Adrenne Brown along with Stumpy and Mercy’s owner Kim Neustrand to view the parade during the cold evening for the annual Night We Light Parade on Friday night. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer3 / 3

Carrie Sandstrom

Special to the Pioneer

BEMIDJI — When bundled up children and adults made their way to the annual Night We Light event in downtown Bemidji, they were aided by the already lit holiday lights on the trees near the Tourist Information Center.

The well-lit trees near the Lake Bemidji waterfront were soon joined by those on the numerous floats participating in the evening’s parade. The event began at 6 p.m. and lasted about an hour, featuring approximately 60 floats.

Although the event celebrated its 19th year on Friday, Dennis Niswander, 56, was a first time participant. Dennis was joined by his wife Jamie and four of their 10 grandchildren, who ranged from ages 4 to 7.

“Winters in Minnesota can get kind of boring,” Dennis said. “It’s kind of nice to have something to do, especially a community event like this to hold people over until Christmas.”

Two of Dennis’ granddaughters, Ava,7, and Mila, 4, traveled all the way from St. Cloud for the event. Jamie said the girls were especially excited about it because they don’t have one in St. Cloud and because “they get to go with grandma and grandpa.”

“It has Santa Claus, candy and lights,” Jamie said. “What’s not to like?”

As floats handing out candy continued to pass by, Mila extended her bulging bag of candy proudly in Dennis’ direction, her face lit up as brightly as the decorated flatbeds.

But it wasn’t just children who took advantage of the plentiful distribution of candy. As the RP Broadcasting and Paskvan Media float blasted a candy gun, small plastic-wrapped sweets rained down on children and adults alike. When parade participants passed by close to where the Niswanders were standing, Dennis cheerfully reached out his hands for a pile of candy to be placed in his gloved fingers.

“There’s something about a parade that brings out the best in people,” Dennis said. “I think Bemidji has a really good Christmas spirit.”

A little way down from the Niswanders, near the glowing pink window of the barber shop, children dove into the street, as walkers threw fun-sized Hershey’s chocolates in their direction.

Despite the plethora of candy, Kelly and Naomi McDonald, along with their two sons Ben, 15, and Isaak, 10, refrained, instead munching on deep-fried doughnuts outside the well-lit window of Cabin Coffee House and Cafe as the floats went down the street.

“It’s like the beginning of the holidays,” Naomi said. “It feels like Christmas when it’s the parade.”

As the final firetruck rolled down the street, the crowds quickly dispersed, leaving only few stray candy wrappers and the lights in their wake.

CARRIE SANDSTROM is a University of North Dakota student working at the Pioneer this week as part of a class.