Downtown kicks off holiday season

Published 2:02 pm Saturday, November 29, 2008

In what was the crowning moment of the opening holiday events downtown, dozens of Albert Leans gathered Friday evening to witness the lighting of the city’s official Christmas tree along Fountain Street.

This was the seventh year for the tree lighting event, sponsored by Destination Albert Lea. It was one of many Heart of the City Holiday Stroll activities that kicked off Friday.

Before Destination Albert Lea President Tami Staker flipped the switch to light up the tree, Albert Lea Mayor Randy Erdman welcomed those who came to the event.

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Erdman said Albert Lea has been cited for having one of the first known municipal Christmas trees in the country back in 1915. But after a few years, that tradition faded out.

In 2002, Destination Albert Lea brought the tradition back.

He said the tree is called the Albert Lea community tree out of an attempt to be inclusive and to embrace the diversity in Albert Lea.

As part of the tree-lighting ceremony, Albert Lean Todd Utpadel sang a few holiday songs before the crowds departed to warm up to a chili dinner sponsored by Destination Albert Lea.

Utpadel thanked Erdman for his two years of service as mayor to the community and asked people to support the downtown shops first and foremost during this holiday season.

Santa was scheduled to visit both young and old attendees at the tree lighting, but was unable to make it.

Prior to the tree-lighting ceremony, other seasonal festivities such as a window decorating contest, the Festival of Trees and holiday shopping kicked off in the downtown.

Downtown retailers opened their doors to shoppers at 9 a.m., with many of them offering special sales to customers.

Voting for favorite holiday window decorations began at 10 a.m. and will go through Dec. 6. People can vote either by ballot at participating shops or online at First place will receive $100, second place $75 and third place $50.

Santa strolled along in the downtown shops later in the afternoon, and the Albert Lea High School Caroliers caroled, both inside and outside of shops.