There were no bonfires along the Paul Bunyan Trail and Main Street. No horse-drawn wagon rides through town. No crowds in the caboose to hear "The Polar Express" read aloud. No activity in the Nisswa Pioneer Village.

But the 39th annual Nisswa City of Lights festival on Friday, Nov. 27, featured events that allowed social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, along with so many holiday lights the city is known for at this time of year. The event culminated with a crackling fireworks display in the cold night sky that drew applause after the grand finale.

Stores were open and welcomed shoppers, and kids were still able to see Santa and Mrs. Claus, who spoke to them from the drive-thru window at First Western Bank and Trust (formerly BlackRidgeBANK). Kids were able to pass their letters and wish lists to Santa through the drive-thru drawer.

On Saturday, Nov. 28, Stacy Johnson, of Howard Lake, won a two-night stay at Quarterdeck Resort on Gull Lake by making a purchase at a participating business and dropping off her receipt at the Nisswa Chamber of Commerce. The chamber then drew her name as the winner.

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The Nisswa Chamber still offers $5 City of Lights buttons that qualify shoppers for deals at participating retailers through Dec. 31.