Taking advantage of former residents coming back to the area for the holidays, the West Central Initiative staff along with its Live Wide Open regional partnership will host a Welcome Home event in four towns throughout Otter Tail County. Travelers are welcomed to come back home to find out about new developments in each town and to take a break from any last minute shopping that may be occurring.

Towns featured in the Welcome Home event include Barnesville, Battle Lake, Perham and Fergus Falls. “Each community has an organization partnering with Live Wide Open to plan the individual events. In Perham, it is the 549 Family Foundation and the Perham School District. In Fergus Falls, it is Forward Fergus Falls and the 544 Education Foundation. In Barnesville, it is Stoneridge Software and the Barnesville Main Street program. In Battle Lake, it is the Battle Lake Area Child Care Center and the Battle Lake Community Fund. The three events taking place in Otter Tail County are also supported by the Otter Tail Lakes Country association,” Rick Schara said. Schara is the Live Wide Open coordinator for West Central Initiative.

Each town has its own unique presentation to give to its community. The childcare center in Battle Lake will be opened. On Saturday people will see a fully-functioning center and be able to visit with a dozen organizations and learn about other exciting growth opportunities,” Schara said.

Similarly, the new high school in Perham will be available to walk through. Schara said, “families and alumni can see this amazing school, learn about jobs and why the concept of moving back home for the quality of life they remember is more and more feasible.”

The renovated downtown buildings in Barnesville will be highlighted for those coming back home to see.

Lastly, those traveling to Fergus Falls can walk through the new community room at the recently renovated Fergus Falls Library. “Also, Fergus Falls city hall is open to showcase a new look at the riverfront development proposal and the former Bello Cucina space downtown will feature otter cookie decorations and opportunities for entrepreneurs,” Schara said.

Why is it important to highlight these aspects for each community? “As communities look to grow in the future, statistics show that 36% of community newcomers have lived there before, Schara said. “So it’s important for our towns to stay in touch with alumni because many look to one day return. After all, where we grew up will always be home and west central Minnesota has so much to offer!”

“To refer to the title from one of my favorite holiday movies, people relocate to our region because they want a wonderful life!” Schara said.

Along with the various events happening around the county, Santa Claus will visit Fergus Falls at city hall from 10-11 a.m. Also, there will be a pop-up Christmas caroling event through downtown Fergus Falls led by Santa.

Schara added, “the Cleveland Elementary 4th grade class took on a project this month to identify and draw a picture postcard of things they love about where they live. Each of the three Fergus locations will have a mailbox with postcards designed by those 4th graders. Santa will deliver those postcards through the U.S. Mail.” The postcards will be available at Fergus Falls City Hall, downtown Fergus Falls and in the new library community room.

For more information about each event, visit livewideopen.com/welcomehome or the event’s Facebook page, “Welcome Home for the Holidays.”

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