The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

November 29, 2013

After opening parade, the LIGHTS STUFF

Despite cold, hundreds attend opening parade

Not even the bitter cold can keep southern Minnesotans from their holiday lights.

For the second straight year, Mankato's Sibley Park is festooned with a million LED lights of all colors, but the magic moment — the one where a switch is flipped and everyone goes "ooh" and "ahh" — had to wait until the parade passed through.

Several dozen floats, trailers, tractors, trucks and cars idled through the park through a tunnel of warmly bundled onlookers who weren't about to let a 17-degree evening keep them from their fun.

Seth and Laura Consore arrived pushing a stroller with a couple of younglings, including one packed so tightly into a pink snow suit that her limbs were jutting out to the sides. They were told by a more than a few folks on their walk into the park that the little one resembled Randy from "A Christmas Story" (Ralphie's little brother.)

The family came last year.

"And it was the perfect night," Laura said.

This year, for the parade, was a bit colder than their visit last year. But that didn't matter.

"It's Minnesota," Seth said. "If you're gonna live here, you gotta be willing to do a few things outside in the winter."

Few spectators were doing more to keep warm than Shelly Harbes of Albert Lea. Amid the many sporting Columbia jackets and ski caps, Harbes stood out with her off-white down comforter, draped around her like she was the queen of snows.

After experiencing the lights last year, a return trip was a must.

"We were here last year and it was so fantastic," said Harbes, who came with her husband Rick, an amateur holiday lights artist himself.

"We light up our house," Rick said, "and put up a dozen blow ups."

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