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Holiday events to ring in the season

Two holiday events are planned for Albert Lea this week to ring in the season while respecting COVID-19 pandemic guidelines.

The first event is a drive-thru Santa and live reindeer experience, and will be from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday in the North Broadway parking lot in downtown Albert Lea. Children will receive a candy cane from Jolly the Elf, see live reindeer up close and wave to Santa Claus in the strictly drive-thru event. People are asked to respect each other and be patient, as a line of cars, and therefore a wait, is expected.

Holly Karsjens, executive director of the Albert Lea Convention and Visitors Bureau as well as the Albert Lea Main Street Program, said she talked with other communities to see what they were planning while she was trying to find something festive yet pandemic-friendly for Albert Lea. She said the Halloween event was so successful and well-attended she felt it could be expanded and that organizers could “tighten up” that plan for a Christmas event — especially since the traditional Holiday Bazaar activities couldn’t take place.

“We know it’s not the same as sitting on Santa’s lap or a trolley ride with friends, but with our given concern for our community’s well-being for the future, I think this is still a great way to find some joy this December,” she said.

Those attending the drive-thru event are asked to enter the parking lot from North Washington Avenue via West Fountain Street, and will then exit onto North Broadway Avenue via Water Street to keep traffic moving. Karsjens said everyone must stay in their vehicle. They are encouraged to move slowly, but to keep moving so everyone can see Santa and the reindeer. Everyone helping with the event will wear masks or shields.

The drive-thru experience was made possible by Lou-Rich, Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services, Farmers State Bank, the city of Albert Lea, the Albert Lea Police Department and the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

In addition to the drive-thru experience, there will be a “Light Up the Lake” event from 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday. Luminaries will line the sidewalk along Lakeview Boulevard from Fountain Street to the bridge by Edgewater Bay, and people are invited to cruise around Fountain Lake to see the luminaries.

Karsjens said volunteers are still needed to sign up to “adopt” a section of the sidewalk to put out the luminaries, as well as donations. Those looking to do either can message the CVB or email Janelle Koepke at janellekoepke@gmail.com, as Karsjens said the event is Koepke’s brainchild.

“With COVID putting so many limitations on holiday activities, I thought Light Up the Lake would be a way to bring something new to the community that would be safe,” Koepke said. “We love our lake in Albert Lea and a nice candle-lit walk/drive will be a peaceful evening activity to celebrate winter on the lake.

“I also love that we’re asking community members to get involved,” she said.

Twenty family teams made up of area neighbors and community members are helping put out the luminaries, Koepke said, and it’s an easy no-contact activity.

“And when we’re all done, we can look at all the 500 luminaries lining the sidewalk and say ‘We did this together,’” she said. “Right now, when we’re feeling a little socially disconnected, being able to come together and participate in something larger than ourselves is what the holiday season is all about.”

 

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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