Yankton’s 2019 Festival of Lights is poised to kick it up another notch with this year’s dazzling array of activities.
The Holiday Festival of Lights is set for Thursday, Dec. 5, from 4-7 p.m. with events throughout the downtown.
This year’s event is being co-hosted by the city and the Meridian District, and is larger than years past, with activities downtown before the parade and tree lighting, and more activities afterwards.
“I would encourage people to come down a little bit early,” City Events and Promotions Coordinator Brittany LaCroix said. “There is going to be no parking on Third St, from Cedar to Capitol. That is going to be blocked off for the parade.”
The parade, which starts at 6 p.m., starts at Second and Pearl streets, moves west to Cedar St., north to Third St. and east on Third St. back to Pearl St.
“It’s going to be a really big, bright parade, so we are really going to light up Yankton and light up the Meridian District,” La Croix said. “I am reading the descriptions of some of these floats, and it always floors me, the creativity we have in this community. Some of the floats are really big. We have one float that is 130 feet long.”
As of this writing, there were already 69 floats registered in the parade, which is up from last year. Prizes will be given out to the entries.
“Every year since 2016, we’ve had record breaking years,” LaCroix said. “The very first year, we had 42 and this year, we are up to 69. The community has really come together on this. To have 69 floats in our parade is pretty awesome.”
With help from Larry’s Heating & Cooling and NatureScaping Designs, the Meridian District has been decked out with Christmas lights and decorated planters, while Parks and Recreation staff installed extra lighting near the Meridian Plaza, LaCroix said.
Activities in the Meridian District from 4-6 p.m. include: roasting marshmallows and making s’mores at Rexall Drug; cookie decorating and letters to Santa at L.Lenae Designs; a hot chocolate bar at Anderson’s Realty and a chance to visit Santa Claus at the River’s Edge Restaurant.
Santa will also be at the Christmas tree lighting and will lead the parade, and from his float, he will be able to talk with children.
“We contract with Santa,” La Croix said. “That’s one of the rules of the parade, that no one else can have an impostor Santa Claus, because we bring the real one down. The fire station does that actually. They get him all lined up so we have him every year.”
From 3:45-7 p.m. the Yankton Community Library is hosting Santa’s Workshop. Children can make and take crafts and hear Ms. Claus read a story at 4:30 p.m.
Also available from 4-6 p.m. are carriage rides in Riverside Park.
“The view is just absolutely stunning,” LaCroix said. “You get the bridge, you get the river and you are right along the bank.”
The charge this year is per family, and families are encouraged to limit themselves to one ride each so everyone gets a chance to ride before the parade begins.
Shortly after the parade, the Christmas-tree lighting begins by the entrance to the lower level of the Meridian Bridge.
“We encourage everyone to walk over to the Meridian Bridge where the tree is,” LaCroix said. “Along your walk, you will notice that we have installed a light tunnel right next to the bridge along the trail. It’s a great picture spot and it’s a very eye-catching tunnel. We are really excited for that, and hope it helps lead people down to the Christmas tree.”
The tree lighting is expected to take from 30-45 minutes and includes Christmas carols by the Yankton Children’s Choir and complimentary hot chocolate and hot apple cider courtesy of First Dakota National Bank.
“Also, Dam Fireworks has graciously donated fireworks again this year,” LaCroix said. “So after the tree lighting, we will (close) with a beautiful fireworks show. The fireworks will be shot off from the top level of the bridge, so the bridge will be closed starting at 6 p.m.”
Immediately after the tree lighting, the Zombies’ Realm haunted house will present a Christmas-themed haunted house, called “A Very Victorian Christmas,” from 7:30-9 p.m.
At 7:45 p.m. the Lewis and Clark Theatre Company will present a live performance of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” at the Dakota Theater.
“We really want people to enjoy a night in the Meridian District,” La Croix said. “Thursday is a great night to come, enjoy the season with your kids and you families, relax and enjoy the merriness and the brightness that this event brings.”
For more information go to www.yanktonfestivaloflights.com.
Yankton’s Holiday Festival of Lights is sponsored by the Services Center Federal Credit Union.
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