The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

December 25, 2012

Volunteers give up part of Christmas, brave cold at Sibley Park

MANKATO — Who knew it was possible for a snowman to get cold? The shivering, the red nose, the visible puffs of frigid Christmas-night air -- all signs that this snowman certainly was.

Peering out behind her felt Frosty costume, Hannah Taylor was one of many volunteers at the Kiwanis Holiday Lights display in Sibley Park who gave up part of their Christmas to take donations, direct traffic and wish a merry Christmas to the long and steady line of traffic descending on the park after supper time.

Tuesday night was the first time Taylor and her costumed cohort Laurie Erstad, who was dressed as a Christmas tree, had volunteered with the Kiwanis Holiday Lights.

Taylor said between the two dates the committee gave her as options to volunteer, Christmas night just worked best for her schedule. Erstad admitted she wasn't as gung-ho.

Erstad's husband, who is on the committee, broke the news that fewer people had signed up to volunteer on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day ... so he signed them up for both nights.

At first, Erstad said she wasn't overjoyed. But she came around, she said. And Tuesday night, with all the families smiling and in the Christmas spirit, she was happy to be in Sibley Park, she said.

Even if it was just 1 degree outside.

"It's not too bad, actually," Taylor said.

The costumes were also helping to keep the women warm and in good spirits.

"We are fun," Erstad said, looking down at her head-to-toe Christmas tree get-up.

Plus, Erstad said, there were so many volunteers with the event that they only had to be out in the cold for 20 minutes at a time. Then they could go inside the warming house, where there was hot chocolate, chili and other treats to get them geared up for their next 20 minutes out in the cold.

As for the spectators, far fewer were on foot Christmas night. The vehicle traffic was backed up for at least a half hour, but the walking path was pretty sparse, probably due to the freezing temps.

But Carrie Hanson couldn't just sit in her car, she said. In Mankato visiting family the past couple of days, Hanson was headed back to Wisconsin Tuesday night. But her aunt told her she couldn't leave town without a stroll through Sibley Park.

"I can't even believe it," she said. "I love Christmas lights, but I've never seen anything like this."

A furry hood covering part of her face, arms folded across her chest, Hanson looked like 20 minutes out in the cold was about all she could take, too.

"Nah," she said. "It actually doesn't feel that cold out here."

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