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Night We Light launches Bemidji into holiday season

The 25th anniversary of the First City of Lights came in with a literal bang on Friday.

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Candy is thrown from the Visit Bemidji float as it makes its way down Beltrami Avenue in the Night We Light parade on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in downtown Bemidji. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)
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BEMIDJI -- The 25th anniversary of the First City of Lights came in with a literal bang on Friday.

Fireworks lit up Lake Bemidji on Nov. 26 following the annual Night We Light parade and ceremony, where the switch was flipped and a half-million lights illuminated Bemidji's downtown area.

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Fireworks explode over Lake Bemidji following the Night We Light Ceremony on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in Paul Bunyan Park. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

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Fireworks explode over Lake Bemidji following the Night We Light Ceremony on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in Paul Bunyan Park. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

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Fireworks explode over Lake Bemidji following the Night We Light Ceremony on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in Paul Bunyan Park. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

The fun started with Santa's Workshop at the Tourist Information Center on Friday. It continued on Saturday, Nov. 27. Guests were able to get a photo with Santa, enjoy holiday treats, write a letter to Santa and place it in his giant mailbox and take home some Christmas crafts.

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Nora Smude, 8, lets Santa Claus know what she’s hoping for on Christmas during Santa’s Workshop on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, at the Tourist Information Center. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

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Ellis Isaacson, 6, asks Santa Claus for Lego sets for Christmas during Santa’s Workshop on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, at the Tourist Information Center. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

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Mackenzie Piel, 7, left, and Blake Piel, 5, join their reluctant sister Lauryn Piel, 1, for a photo at Santa’s Workshop on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, at the Tourist Information Center. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

People lined the streets of downtown Bemidji as the Night We Light parade set off at 6 p.m. and made its way from the Beltrami County Administrative Building parking lot and turned east on Eighth Street before going south on Beltrami Avenue to Third Street, where it traveled west to end on Irvine Avenue.

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The Digital Jake float makes its way down Beltrami Avenue during the Night We Light parade on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in downtown Bemidji. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

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Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox ride along in the Night We Light parade on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in downtown Bemidji. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

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A child waves from the Beltrami Electric float as it makes its way down Beltrami Avenue during the Night We Light parade on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in downtown Bemidji. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

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Santa waves from the Bemidji Fire Department ladder truck during the Night We Light parade on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in downtown Bemidji. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

The winning floats from the parade were Visit Bemidji with the best nonprofit award, Digital Jake for best business, Beltrami Electric received the best use of lights, Bemidji Youth League Baseball was named the best youth float and Paul Bunyan Broadcasting got the media award.

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The First City of Lights float makes its way down Beltrami Avenue during the Night We Light parade on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in downtown Bemidji. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

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Candy is thrown from the Go and Whoa Harness Club float during the Night We Light parade on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in downtown Bemidji. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

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Bemidji Fire Captain Ben Hein waves from a fire truck during the Night We Light parade on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in downtown Bemidji. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

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A woman throws candy during the Night We Light parade on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in downtown Bemidji. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

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Children wait for candy to be thrown during the Night We Light parade on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in downtown Bemidji. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

After the parade, everyone gathered in Paul Bunyan Park to listen to a few Christmas carols before the giant switch was flipped to illuminate downtown Bemidji. The ceremony was followed by fireworks over Lake Bemidji for the first time in more than 20 years.

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Josh Peterson, executive director of the First City of Lights Foundation, flips a giant light switch to illuminate downtown Bemidji during the Night We Light Ceremony on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in Paul Bunyan Park. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

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Paul Bunyan’s Christmas tree is illuminated during the Night We Light Ceremony on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in Paul Bunyan Park. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

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Paul Bunyan Park is illuminated following the Night We Light Ceremony on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in Paul Bunyan Park. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

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An illuminated display called the Nature Trail, sponsored by Enbridge, makes its debut during the Night We Light Ceremony on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in Paul Bunyan Park. The trail features various woodland creatures placed along the path leading to Chief Bemidji’s statue. Each animal has accompanying signage of its name in the Ojibwe. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

Also beginning on Friday was the First City of Lights Tour of Homes. A map of homes with the most illuminated Christmas displays will be available at the Tourist Information Center.

Viewers can also use it through your map app on your phone. While traveling around, be sure to tune in to KZY 95.5 FM on your radio, as they provide a soundtrack for the tour every evening through Christmas.

The Christmas Window Display Contest is also ongoing through Dec. 10. Businesses throughout downtown will have their window displays illuminated for all to see. After taking in all the displays, the public can vote for the best one through Dec. 10 at the Tourist Information Center.

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Paul Bunyan Park is bright with lights following the Night We Light ceremony on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in downtown Bemidji. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

Related Topics: CHRISTMAS
Annalise is the editor and a photographer at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is a Mass Communication graduate from Bemidji State University. Her favorite pastime is exploring the great outdoors and capturing its natural beauty on camera. Contact Annalise at (218) 333-9796, (218) 358-1990 or abraught@bemidjipioneer.com.
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