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Lights in the Pines was a success, but what about its future?

Barb Felt with Scouts Troop 321 discussed the success of Lights in the Pines and if it will return.

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A group of Lights in the Pines attendees take a selfie together under the twinkling tunnel of lights.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus
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PERHAM — Many Perham residents and visitors alike were dazzled by the twinkling and sparkling holiday light show in the Pioneer Grounds this Christmas season . With one year under Lights in the Pines' belt, it could already be considered a success, just by the sheer number of people who passed through. However, its future is currently uncertain.

"I felt, for the very first year, and the unknown being a big thing, the fact that we had as many people (was great)," said Barb Felt, a parent and secretary with Scouts Troop 321, who helped run the event. "We gave numbers to the city that we were hoping for about 3,000 people. We exceeded that number by almost 2,000 people. That was pretty exciting to see, and I think it's only going to get bigger in the future, as long as we can keep everything going."

By the end of December, Felt said the Scouts counted about 4,680 attendees. On opening night alone, they had almost 900 people come through. Scoutmasters from other troops visited Perham just to see the end result. Felt spoke with a family all the way from Nebraska who were visiting Battle Lake. All 27 of them came to Perham, ate at a restaurant in town and then saw the lights. People from places like Monticello and Annandale even came out for the show. It wasn't just for locals, people from all over were in the Pioneer Village.

While the exact number of money raised through Lights in the Pines isn't currently known, it will all go toward the Scouts — specifically to help send them to high-adventure camps.

According to Felt, these camps can be quite expensive, costing $3,000-$4,000 per kid to go. At these camps, kids learn different aspects of leadership skills while still having fun. While doing something like ziplining, attendees also get to learn organization and other life skills.

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"(Lights in the Pines) essentially brought funds to our troop that we did not have previously to help get these kids to these high-adventure camps," Felt said.

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Roots and Wing's sponsor display at Lights in the Pines features shining animals walking through the snow of the Pioneer Grounds.
Elizabeth Vierkant / Perham Focus

Many of the area Scouts also volunteered to help Mike and Tammy Schmidt — the minds and hands behind the show — with the labor of setting up and taking down. The kids are also able to learn leadership skills through this process, Felt said, and get to experience the satisfaction of seeing something come together after weeks of organizing and planning.

Though this first year was quite the success for Lights in the Pines, Felt is unsure whether or not this will become an annual event. She mentioned that renewing the show for 2023 was discussed at a recent meeting, due to the number of attendees and the enjoyment expressed by them. She even said that their Facebook page was filled with compliments, and several sponsoring businesses already expressed future interest.

For those really hoping to see Lights in the Pines return, Felt had some advice: "I would highly encourage them to send emails to lightsinthepines@gmail.com," she said. "Even with getting the public out there to put up displays, the big thing is the electricity out there is just not capable of doing a ton more than what we have this year. So, reaching out to the Parks Board and trying to figure out what we can do for electricity would be fantastic. We're kind of stuck at what we had out there right now, just because we pretty much maxed it out, but we'd like to see more businesses participate next year."

Possible future displayers wouldn't even have to be businesses, she said. If someone really loves Christmas and light displays but doesn't want to put anything up at their house, they could contribute to the show instead. Felt made sure to emphasize that interested displayers don't have to wait to express their interest until the next Christmas season. They can email lightsinthepines@gmail.com to do so at any time.

"We're very thankful for this small community — all the sponsorships that we had and everybody that helped out throughout the entire process," Felt said. "It would not have been successful without them … The Scouts are very happy and thankful for everything the community have done for us."

Elizabeth (she/her), 23, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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