One Black Friday event will continue while another annual local celebration will not because of public health concerns.

Both are beloved as post-Thanksgiving Day holiday traditions.

The Aitkin Area Chamber of Commerce canceled the Reversed! Fish House Parade and Sip’n’Stroll scheduled for Friday, Nov. 27.

“I mean that’s always our goal with this parade is to just keep people in town and celebrate the season of Thanksgiving by shopping small,” said Taylor Erickson, executive director of the Aitkin Area Chamber of Commerce.

The Nisswa Chamber of Commerce will continue, however, with its City of Lights Celebration slated for Friday, but with some changes due to COVID-19.

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“We had to revamp it where we are having the festival with no one getting out of their vehicles,” said Pam Dorion, president of the Nisswa Chamber of Commerce.

Nisswa City of Lights

Organizers of the Nisswa Chamber of Commerce-presented event in downtown Nisswa encourage the public to embrace the holiday season with its City of Lights Celebration.

“Normally, we have our streets closed and people are milling around by campfires, and there are reindeers and sleighs, and Santa sits out in the square and fireworks,” Dorion said of past years.

The annual event usually began in the afternoon with horse-drawn wagon rides, a photo opportunity with live reindeer, storytelling, food merchants, bonfires, hot cider and mini doughnuts, and strolling holiday carolers.

But that was then, this is now.

“We have put Santa in the drive-thru at First Western Bank, and the kids can drive through and pass their letters through that, you know, little drive-thru slot,” Dorion said. “And then they can park and watch fireworks.”

In addition to children sharing their Christmas gift wishes with Santa at First Western Bank on Lakers Lane, lights will adorn trees, fences and buildings in downtown Nisswa.

“We have the town lit up to see it from the moon, so they can drive through town, anytime after dusk after the 27th and see those lights,” Dorion said. “I think people are still going to be excited to welcome in the holiday season, even in drive-thru style.”

The Nisswa chamber will also be kicking off its holiday shopping campaign with the City of Lights Celebration — an almost four-decade tradition — on what used to be one of the busiest shopping days of the year: the Friday after Thanksgiving aka Black Friday.

“The governor’s call didn’t hurt retail, so the stores will be open just like always. It’s Black Friday, so it’s a big day for them,” Dorion said of commerce and Gov. Tim Walz’s recent orders for the temporary closing of bars, restaurants, fitness centers as COVID-19 cases surge.

Aitkin Fish House Parade

The Aitkin Area Chamber of Commerce board voted to cancel this year’s Reversed! Fish House Parade and Sip’n’Stroll but not without regrets according to an announcement on its website.

“We started the planning process several months ago. At that time, case numbers in Aitkin were fairly low,” Erickson said of the parade that attracts about 3,000 people on average.

The parade has been featured in publications and lists nationwide, but a USA Today spread gained the quirky small-town central Minnesota event greater national exposure.

“I mean we started it as a celebration of that community aspect. We wanted to display our personalities, but it was also a way of trying to get people to stay close to home on Black Friday and spend their money in our own community,” Erickson said.

Floats in years past incorporated myriad ideas, from hot tubs outside the fish houses, to Santa Claus, to an homage to “Grumpy Old Men,” to name a few.

“I mean we live in rural Minnesota with a ton of lakes surrounding us, so ice fishing is a huge part of our culture, where we find joy and entertainment in the long winter months. It's just kind of — I don't know — a fun celebration of that,” Erickson said.

The parade has expanded in its almost three-decade-old history to include a morning 5K run/walk, meet-and-greet with Santa and other attractions.

“I think that it is a really good display of Aitkin’s personality, you know? It's kind of a quirky offbeat parade,” Erickson said.

The Fish House Raffle and Virtual Fish House 5K are still scheduled, so those who are interested should contact the Aitkin Gobbler volleyball team or the chamber office for raffle tickets, or sign up for the Virtual Fish House 5K at www.Aitkin.com.

“Obviously, COVID was a very real concern and we were taking it very seriously. But at the time, we felt that we needed to adapt the event so that it could still happen but happen safely,” Erickson said of the raffle and 5K.

Many Aitkin area businesses will offer Black Friday deals even with the parade cancellation, so Erickson is encouraging would-be gift-givers to shop small or local.

“Cases in Aitkin County — and really all over the state and even the country — have just spiked so dramatically, so even with all the safety measures in place, we felt that the most responsible decision would be to cancel the parade and the Sip’n’Stroll,” Erickson said.

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchFL.