As a member of the Pine River Chamber of Commerce board of directors, I consider it my duty to insist that all of my readers in Pine River light up their homes and businesses for this year's Parade of Lights event. There might even be money in it for you.

Of course, as a representative of the chamber it is in my interest to encourage Pine River businesses and residents to participate in one of our organized events. After all, we occasionally get feedback that there aren't all that many lights in our big Parade of Lights celebration, save for the floats themselves, and we are working to change that.

For me, it's more than that because I'm more convinced that there is less excitement and spirit of celebration in our area, whether in relation to local festivals, parades, Halloween, Christmas or other holidays. With exception of big celebratory events at bars, I don't think people have the same spirit they had when I was a child.

I walked with youth group students last year as they trick-or-treated for food shelf donations, and the number of residents who were not handing out candy was surprising considering I lived 16 miles from the nearest town as a child, yet only two houses between our house and Backus didn't offer candy. We never went home without a whole pillowcase full of candy. People had more enthusiasm back then.

The same is true for Christmas, sadly. When I was a child there were certainly only a few specific homes that were on the level of Clark W. Griswold, but almost every home had at least some twinkle lights up. You were sure to get an eyeful of Christmas spirit no matter where you were driving, and I miss that.

The Pine River Chamber of Commerce used to host a competition for Christmas decorations in the past, and we are doing so again. If you missed news items in earlier editions of the Echo Journal, that's fine because there's still time to decorate and get your house or business judged.

The plan is to do judging Monday, Dec. 9. Getting on the list of houses and businesses to judge is as simple as calling the chamber at 218-587-4000 to register your location. There is a business category and a residential category. Both categories have a first place prize of $100, with $50 for second and $25 for third.

Pine River isn't the only community to host a lighting competition. In case you didn't know, Community Action of Pequot Lakes is hosting a business decorating competition as part of its Santa's Bobbin' Into Town event. The deadline for the Pequot Lakes competition is Friday, Dec. 13. First place gets $300, second gets $150 and third gets $50. To register, call Barb Merritt at 218-568-4695.

Please help us spread the word and light up our cities this Christmas. I think we could all benefit from an increase in Christmas spirit. I think it is probably reasonable to start where it's possible to win money, right?