The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 1, 2014

Our View: Kiwanis lights shine bright

The Mankato Free Press

---- — Thumbs up once again to organizers, volunteers, donors and visitors of the Kiwanis Lights display in Sibley Park.

Organizers note that visitors increased by 30,000 or 30 percent the second year of the community celebration of the holiday season. The event captured the interest of Twin City televisions stations and allowed some of those metro folks to see a beautiful light display and a beautiful city.

Hundreds of volunteers hosted the 33 nights of the event, sometimes in the bone-chilling cold. But they directed traffic, collected food for food shelves and help make the event a real winner for visitors.

Some 15.3 tons of food was collected for 15 area food shelves, up from 13 tons the first year, a 13 percent increase. Thirty five businesses and other organizations entered floats in the debut parade the day after Thanksgiving. About 100 area businesses also provided cash and in-kind donations and 35 restaurants provided food for volunteers.

About $40,000 will be donated back to the nonprofit groups that provided volunteers for the set up, tear -down and nightly staffing.

While the event had a very successful first year, it appears the second year has been better. There will be even more improvements in 2014. Kudos also to the Downtown Kiwanis Club and its members for providing the leadership, community spirit and enthusiasm to once again bring a stellar light display to the Mankato region for the holidays.

Looking for a bite of the audience

Thumbs up to television’s counter-programmers.

In the universe of television ratings, nothing matches the Super Bowl. One network pulls in the eyeballs while the others wonder if anybody’s watching.

Ten years ago, the cable outlet Animal Planet tried a creative counterprogramming move, opposing the NFL championship game with “Puppy Bowl”: Two hours of rescue puppies cavorting on a fake football field, repeated all day and stuffed with product placement. It was cheap, simple — and surprisingly popular and profitable.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and yesterday’s innovation is today’s cliche. As Animal Planet prepares to unleash “Puppy Bowl X” Sunday, the Hallmark Channel is purring about the debut of “Kitten Bowl.” And National Geographic Channel hopes to net some viewers with “Fish Bowl” — eight hours of a goldfish (named Goldie) swimming in a bowl.

The Super Bowl will romp in the ratings, of course, but the cute critters will score as well.

Peace in the park resonates

Thumbs up to local Kiwanis Park users for coming to an amicable agreement on uses in the park.

Everyone knows there are cat people and dog people, but there are also dog people and mountain-bike people and their mixed use of Kiwanis Park wasn’t always going smoothly.

The two groups had been in conflict as bikers complained of dogs not on leashes sometimes chasing bikes and dog owners complaining of bikers racing closely past them.

Mankato city employees got the groups together to come up with a plan that both could live with. The proposal, which goes to the City Council for approval, gives each group a dedicated part of the riverside park for their use, in effect preventing conflict by keeping the different uses separated.

Park users and city officials should be applauded for sitting down face-to-face and coming up with a compromise.

Maybe the group could get Congressional leaders to come to town and show them how to get along.