It's Christmas time in the cityOn Friday afternoon, nearly 800 people attended an event that at one time was almost abolished. The annual Christmas in the Fort holiday celebration, which includes the lighting ceremony of downtown Alexandria, took place at the Runestone Museum in Alexandria November 28.
By: Celeste Beam, Alexandria Echo Press
On Friday afternoon, nearly 800 people attended an event that at one time was almost abolished.
The annual Christmas in the Fort holiday celebration, which includes the lighting ceremony of downtown Alexandria, took place at the Runestone Museum in Alexandria November 28.
With a flip of a giant switch, Santa and Mrs. Claus turned on the holiday lights that twinkle across Broadway from 3rd to 8th Avenue.
The event, which has seen its share of changes over the years, was once almost nixed because of lack of funding and support.
But in 2004, the traditional Christmas in the Fort celebration – also known as A Taste of the Holidays and the Alexandria Lighting Ceremony, among others – was resurrected by the Runestone Museum, and with a flip of a switch, the spirit of the season shone brightly once again throughout downtown Alexandria with its beautiful display of Christmas lights.
The lights used to decorate the downtown area were purchased about 15 years ago for about $64,000, according to Al Crowser, general manager for Alexandria Light and Power (ALP).
Julie Blank, manager of the Runestone Museum, said Alexandria’s earlier Christmas lights were purchased by the Chamber of Commerce in about 1969 for between $10,000 and $12,000.
Three Alexandrians, including E.C. Beliveau, Harvey Hammergren and Gene Karnis, helped to raise the money that was needed for the decorations, which were bought in Minneapolis.
At that time, which is when Blank believes the “lighting ceremony” began, the Chamber of Commerce was in charge of the lighting ceremony.
And, ALP was in charge of putting the lights up. They were originally stored in what is now known as the Martinson Insurance building on 6th Avenue and Hawthorne, noted Blank.
She also noted that most people don’t realize how much work goes into getting everything ready for the Christmas in the Fort event and lighting ceremony.
There are many entities involved, including the city’s street department and police department.
Crowser noted that depending on the weather, the decorations are typically put up in a couple of days.
Even though ALP is more visible when it comes to putting up the lights, the street department does an equal amount of work. The street department, noted Crowser, not only hauls out the lights and decorations each year, it also refurbishes them when necessary.
No matter who does the work or who is in charge, both Crowser and Blank have heard many comments about how wonderful Alexandria’s holiday decorations are.
In fact, Crowser said many people – especially those who have moved out of the area – have made it a tradition to “come home for the holidays” to see the lighting ceremony.
A video of the ceremony and photo gallery is available at www.echopress.com.