A step in the light direction: Parade of Lights a 'go' under new Jaycees leadership

After a brief scare that it might not be happening this year, Perham's annual Parade of Lights will in fact be returning for its 18th annual run this Friday, Nov. 23.


After a brief scare that it might not be happening this year, Perham's annual Parade of Lights will in fact be returning for its 18th annual run this Friday, Nov. 23.

The local Lions club, which had previously organized the parade, announced just weeks ago that it would be unable to do so again this year, leaving the event's future in question - but not for long.

"When I found out that the Lions were unable to do it this year, I immediately sent an email to our team," wrote Elena Weller, President of the East Otter Tail Jaycees, in an email to the Focus. "We're a small group and I knew it wouldn't be an easy task to get a parade thrown together in three weeks, but we all know how important it is to the community."

"We've taken our families to the parade and see the crowds that show up every year," she continued. "One member of our group even said that it wouldn't feel like Christmas without the Parade of Lights to kick off the season... We wasted no time getting to work."

Always held at dusk in downtown Perham the Friday after Thanksgiving, the parade features a long line of floats, costumed folks and other entries marching down Main Street decked out in Christmas lights as a fun and illuminating start to the holiday season.


All other lights in the downtown area are turned off during the parade, to make the floats stand out as much as possible. Floats are judged on their lights, holiday spirit and creativity, with the top three winning cash prizes for their efforts.

As in the past, festivities will kick off shortly before 5:30 p.m. at NP Park in downtown Perham, with the lighting of the City Christmas Tree by Perham Mayor Tim Meehl. Meehl will flip a switch, and with that, the tree will light up and the streetlights will go dark.

The parade will begin immediately after that, kicking off from St. Paul's Lutheran Church and passing by Perham Living nursing home before circling around to Main Street.

As of late last week, there were 12 confirmed parade entries, with additional verbal commitments made, as well. The Jaycees are hoping to have at least as many floats as last year.

"They had 18 last year and we'd love to at least stay steady with that number," said Weller. "We will be flexible with the deadline if people are interested in signing up last minute."

Float entries may be submitted online at The original deadline to submit entries was published on the site as Nov. 16.

Winning entries will be announced at a chili feed at The Cactus following the parade. Everyone is invited to attend. Free will offerings will be accepted, and prizes will be awarded for the first, second and third place entries.

"Our goal is to get the entire community together to celebrate the most magical time of year, complete with music, lights and holiday cheer," Weller said. "We're excited that we are able to keep it alive so that families can continue to experience it. It's also looking like the weather will be good, so it's a nice opportunity to bring the family outside one more time before winter officially sets in!"

A writer, editor and mom of four (two kids, two dogs), Marie's been in the newspaper business for over 20 years. She started at the Detroit Lakes Tribune in 2017 after working just down the road at the Perham Focus for several years. Before that, she was at the Herald-Review in Grand Rapids, Minn.
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