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Fort celebration ups and downs

Thumbs Up/Down: The Runestone Museum's annual Christmas in the Fort celebration is one of those distinctively local events that brings the whole community together for a festive start to the holiday season. There was record-breaking attendance this year — more than 1,500 turned out. The event was filled with high points — Santa and Mrs. Claus arrival on one of the oldest cars in Alexandria — a 1913 Model T, provided by local residents, Bob and Lecia Baas. Hot coffee, cider and cookies were made possible by North Nokomis Caribou Coffee, Bell Bank, Alexandria Area High School, Roers Family Bakery and Robyn of Winning Edge Graphics. Entertainment was provided by the Zion School Choir, Carolers of Alexandria and Erickson's Petting Zoo of Osakis. But the event had some glitches that were pointed out by a couple of readers: There was no countdown, build-up or even a sound system for the climatic event of turning on the downtown lights. The lights just kind of came on and people went on their way. To improve the event, one reader suggested approaching downtown businesses and Explore Alexandria Tourism to donate to the cause. Another big way to help is to volunteer. It takes many hands to pull off a free community event like this and the museum would greatly appreciate more help. Amanda Seim, the museum executive director, pointed that out in a news release: "We weren't without a few hiccups this year," she said, "so if anyone would like to volunteer for next year's event, please reach out to the museum." Seim also plans to get more downtown businesses to get involved in the event, following the lead of Real Estate by Jo, which provided hot coffee and cocoa, and Doug's Kettle Korn. Seim said new unique additions are in the works for next year. She's also open to any suggestions or feedback. Call the museum at 320-763-3160.

Freemasons step up

Thumbs Up: The Alexandria Area Freemasons made a big donation to the new Veterans Memorial Park that will break ground this spring. All 104 of its members voted to donate $20,000 and the amount was matched by the Grand Lodge of Minnesota. It's the biggest donation in the 150-year history of the local lodge. With such a generous gift, the Freemasons demonstrated one of their three great principles — relief, which states that "Freemasons are taught to practice charity, and to care, not only for their own, but also for the community as a whole, both by charitable giving and by voluntary efforts and works as individuals." To make your own donation to the park, mail your check to Veterans Memorial Park, P.O. Box 733, Alexandria, MN 56308, or email or call Russ Oorlog at 763-494-3576 or Gabe Pipo at 320-815-7943.

Handy tip

Thumbs Up: An Alexandria woman sent us a helpful hint for those who aren't so steady while standing on chairs to wash their walls and ceilings. "I get a dust broom, tie an old towel onto it, after folding the sides in and twisting it around the broom handle, and get it wet with hot water in the sink," she said. "I squeeze out the extra water, spray it with foam or regular window solvent. Then just slide the broom back and forth until it gets dirty or starts to dry out. Then put it back under the hot water, refoam or spray and repeat the process. It works slicker than a greased pig." She added the trick also works for cleaning floors.