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2nd Lake Mills lights display seeks to boost holiday spirit

LAKE MILLS — In its second year, a drive-thru lights display in Lake Mills has tripled in size while trying to bring holiday cheer to area residents.

Lake Mills Chamber Development Corporation Executive Director Cassie Johnson said the idea started last year through a collaboration with local business Marketplace on Mill Street, starting with five displays. Johnson said last year’s display was a “whirlwind” and that efforts were started earlier this year to get more businesses involved, resulting in 15 displays this year.

“I think after seeing what we were trying to do last year, many more businesses felt inspired to participate this year,” Johnson said. “There was definitely more excitement in year two.”

She said community attendance in year two increased as well, with over 5,000 people claiming interest in the online lighting ceremony event on Facebook. When the display first turned on Nov. 28, Johnson said there was a steady stream of cars, sometimes lined up all the way back to Highway 105, for a solid two hours. She said the hot cocoa from Swallow Coffeehouse ran out in nine minutes, and more couldn’t be brought back because of the long line heading into the display.

“Growing pains, I suppose,” Johnson said. “It was a fun night.”

There will be a Christmas lights cruise starting at 5 p.m. Dec. 12 that will include the display as a stop, along with entries into the residential Christmas lights contest. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

In addition to businesses Singelstad Do It Best Hardware & Rental, Groe Electric Inc., Larson Storm Doors, MBT Bank, Lake Mills Care Center-ABCM Corporation, Citizens Community Credit Union, Three Oaks Greenhouse, Floral & Gift, Uptown Fitness, Winnebago Cooperative Telecom Association, Young Plumbing and Heating, Winnebago County Logan Loganeers, Norske Pork, Marketplace on Mill Street, Lake Mills Rec, Winnebago Industries and Swallow Coffeehouse participating, Johnson said the city’s parks and recreation department also got more involved this year. The department helped obtain some materials, including photocell boxes to turn lights on and off during the night automatically, as well as a “Letters to Santa” dropbox. Donations can also be dropped off in the box, and will help cover event expenses as well as support local organizations.

“Our goal is to grow into an event that can be utilized to support itself and local organizations financially, but also, on a betterment level, we want to give people something to enjoy during the holiday season,” Johnson said. “So many are putting a hold on normal traditions this year with the pandemic, and we are just hoping to fill in some of those empty spaces.”

The Lake Mills drive-thru lights display will be open and available nightly throughout December at Leonard Fjelstad Sports Complex in Lake Mills. There will be a Christmas lights cruise starting at 5 p.m. Dec. 12 that will include the display as a stop, along with entries into the residential Christmas lights contest. The Winnebago County 4-H Logan Loganeers will collect food bank donations at the drive-thru display during the cruise. More details, including a route map and voting ballots, will be released by the Lake Mills chamber as the event approaches.

“We are so grateful for the businesses who participated this year — we literally could not hold the event without them,” Johnson said. “I hope they had as much fun creating their displays as we did viewing them on opening night.

“Christmastime is such a magical time and we want to help build and provide a little boost to the community’s holiday spirit. Maybe attending the drive-thru light display will become a family tradition for people.”

 

About Colleen Harrison

Colleen Harrison is the photo editor at the Albert Lea Tribune. She does photography and writes general-assignment stories.

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