by Nicole Brodzik
With Thanksgiving just weeks away, the holiday season is getting into full swing across the country. In Mound, however, there’s a tangible event that marks the beginning of the winter holidays.
“The tree lighting ceremony usually draws a couple hundred people from the community,” Westonka Community and Commerce Board Member Karen King said. “It was first organized over 32 years ago by local businesses to really kick off the holidays and the start of the holiday shopping season for local businesses.”
The 33rd Annual Westonka Community and Commerce Mound Tree Lighting Ceremony will take place on Nov. 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. in Mound’s Harbor District. Aside from actual tree lighting, there will horse and buggy rides around Lake Langdon, an appearance by Mr. and Mrs. Claus with the help of the Mound Fire Department, a bonfire, treats, as well as hot chocolate and coffee. Live music will be provided by The Middle Singers from Grandview Middle School, Madd Jazz from Mound Westonka High School, the Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Choir and Tommy Gray from Graydog DJ.
The event, which is usually held on the Thursday prior to Thanksgiving, has a new date because the WCC had difficulty getting a tree for that date.
King is hopeful that the weather will cooperate after last year’s event featured 40 miles per hour winds and freezing temperatures that prevented the bonfire from happening. Despite all of that though, King said they still had people come out.
“We’re hearty Minnesotans, period,” King said. “The community really looks forward to the event every year.”
The event is put on by Westonka Community and Commerce, with the help from around 30 volunteers, most of which are Mound Westonka High School students. Music is played throughout the whole evening to keep people in the holiday spirit.
One of the biggest draws for families is the chance to take photos with Santa.
“My favorite thing is just seeing the community come together, and especially seeing the kids with Santa,” King said. “When they see the fire truck pulling up with Santa and Mrs. Claus, they line up and area all so excited to meet him and get their photo taken.”
Volunteers from the City of Mound Public Works, Mound Fire Department, Orono Police Department, River Valley Church, Mound Westonka High School Student Senate and Mound Westonka’s wrestling cheerleaders all help make the event possible.
For more information, visit http://www.westonkacc.com/tree-lighting/