Crowds of people huddled along Perham's Main Street the day after Thanksgiving for the community's annual Parade of Lights. Families eagerly waited for floats adorned with lights and holiday decor to make their way down the long stretch of road.
Shortly after sunset, Perham Mayor Tim Meehl kicked off the evening's festivities by lighting the town's Christmas tree. Large crowds of people applauded as Meehl hastily made his way from NP Park to his own float a few blocks away.
It was a warm night devoid of inclement weather. Spectators lucked out and were able to enjoy a night of beautiful, festive lights without battling wind and snow.
The street lights went dark, only silhouettes of the crowd could be seen, illuminated by police lights in the distance. The procession of floats made their way down Main Street. A wave of excitement went over the crowd as parents held their children up to see the cavalcade of lights pierce through the dark. A wide variety of 25 parade entries participated, more than double the anticipated entries.
Lights were carefully arranged on vehicles of all kinds, which were themed appropriately with characters, props, and ideas from popular holidays films and stories. Santa Claus and the Grinch were popular participants.
Floats were judged on three criteria: uniqueness, creativity and theme. The spectacle of lights had many creative entries -- one float was a giant Christmas tree mounted on an ATV. With each press of the accelerator, the star would bounce back and forth, making for a rather interesting show of motorized Christmas ingenuity.
After the floats made their way down Main Street, people were invited to The Cactus, where the winners of the parade were announced. The City of Perham, in a dazzling display of civic pride, took first place. Second place went to Perham Health. Third was awarded to Arvig. Parade winners were awarded Perham Bucks for their hard work and creativity.
"City of Perham knocked it out of the park," said Nicole White, a marketing assistant at Arvig who was at the awards ceremony. The City of Perham literally lit up the city block. The float was a summation of everything Perham, paying tribute to the water tower and the park where just minutes earlier the mayor had kicked off the parade. The mayor, of course, could be seen on the float, waving from a park bench surrounded by yellow lights.
This is the 18th year the Parade of Lights has taken place. It was almost canceled in the weeks prior, until the East Otter Tail Jaycees took over the event. That seemed to spur a renewed excitement for the parade. "I've never seen so many people come out for the Parade of Lights," said Tyler Krumwiede, chairman of the parade. Droves of people attended, making for an exciting evening in downtown Perham.