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Stage is set for Christmas in the Fort today

Echo Press photo by Lowell Anderson Workers from Alexandria Light and Power and the street department put up holiday decorations Monday. All of the lights will be turned on today, Friday, at about 5:15 p.m.

The stage is set for another festive holiday season in Alexandria.

Crews from Alexandria Light and Power and the city street department put up the Christmas decorations this week.

A lighting ceremony will take place today, Friday, as part of the "Christmas in the Fort" celebration at the Runestone Museum.

The Christmas lights are more than 20 years old and if you think they've lost some twinkle over the years, you're right. In fact, Alexandria Light and Power plans to replace all the bulbs with more energy efficient LED lights next holiday season.

The decorations, which typically take about three days to put up depending on the weather, will grace Alexandria's downtown area until at least January 1. Street and power workers will then begin the work of packing them away for another year.

Back in the 1990s, the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce used to pay the expenses of putting up the decorations. But ALP has since taken on the cost in exchange for free membership into the Chamber.

The gates for Christmas in the Fort will open at 3:30 p.m. and Santa and Mrs. Claus are set to arrive by horse and carriage around 3:45 p.m. They will be coming down Broadway beginning at 7th Avenue.

At 5:15 p.m. the annual lighting ceremony will take place.

The museum itself will be open during the Christmas in the Fort event with a paid admission.

Julie Blank, Runestone Museum manager, noted that to add to the festive atmosphere, there will be a "crackling fire burning" to add some warmth if the weather is on the chilly side. But she also stressed that people should dress warm and remember to wear their hats and mittens.

This year, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be in "Santa's Workshop," which is otherwise known as the annex. This will keep them out of the elements when visiting with children. They will be collecting toys, mittens and hats for the Jaycees' Jingle Bells telethon fundraiser.

Also scheduled to make a special appearance are a couple of Santa's reindeer. Parents are encouraged to bring a camera to take pictures of their children with Santa and Mrs. Claus - and maybe the reindeer, too.

Blank noted that the lighting ceremony wouldn't be possible if it weren't for all the hard work done by members of Alexandria Light and Power and the crew from the Alexandria Street Department.

"This is really a fun time for families and it's free," said Blank. "They can take in the sounds of the season and take pictures of their children with Santa."

She also noted that there would be free popcorn, pretzels and apple cider for guests to enjoy.

The gates of the museum are set to close around 5:30 p.m.

This event is sponsored by several businesses and individuals who contributed through the Runestone Musuem's four different giving levels - platinum, gold, silver and bronze.

For more information, call (320) 763-3160.