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.
The Nisswa Chamber still offers $5 City of Lights buttons that qualify shoppers for deals at participating retailers through Dec. 31.
1/6: People turned out in downtown Nisswa on Friday night, Nov. 27, for the annual Nisswa City of Lights fireworks display. Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal
2/6: Kinsley and Kylie Kostreba, of Breezy Point, anticipate seeing Santa Claus and giving him letters from the back seat of their vehicle after reaching the front of the drive-thru line at First Western Bank and Trust in Nisswa during the City of Lights event Friday, Nov. 27. Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal
3/6: People turned out in downtown Nisswa on Friday night, Nov. 27, to enjoy the annual Nisswa City of Lights fireworks display. Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal
4/6: The Nisswa Mini Donut booth saw a lot of action Friday, Nov. 27, during the City of Lights event. Here, Andrea Pokornowski, of Litchfield, buys doughnuts for Russell and Miles Pokornowski. Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal
5/6: Little Miss Nisswa Olivia Anderson enjoys a sucker while helping hand them out to kids in the drive-thru line to see Santa at the City of Lights event. Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal
6/6: Shoppers walk by decorated stores Friday, Nov. 27, during the Nisswa City of Lights celebration. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.
She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.
She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!