Five dauntless soldiers, outfitted in fatigues, will travel from Fort Snelling to play the national anthem as we light the Christmas tree for the grand finale of the Over the River Festival.

When I was a kid growing up in Fergus Falls, we had Crazy Days and Winter Wonderland as the two most memorable city wide events in town. Later, Scandinavian Days were celebrated in June. These events came and went, morphed and magnified. Today we have Summerfest in June and Frostbite Festival in winter, but probably my favorite event of the year is the Over the River Holiday Festival which is coming up this weekend. If you haven’t done it yet, get your friends, family, and neighbors together and plan to head downtown for one of the best community events of the year. This year promises to be bigger and better than ever! Hosted by the Fergus Falls Downtown Riverfront Council (FFDRC) in an effort to bring the community together around our beautiful downtown district, what started as Christmas tree lighting has exploded into a community celebration that promises something for everyone and every age. The only way this type of event can succeed is for the entire community to come together in the work and planning. FFRDC, the city, Springboard for the Arts, Center for the Arts, and many, many more businesses and organizations have come together in a true community collaboration to bring family and friends together, and to offer a regional event that draws others to our terrific town. 

As I was reviewing the schedule of events, I realized I cannot highlight everything because I’m limited by space in the paper. Your best bet to not miss a thing is to go to You will find the times and locations of every event. I can, however, review some of the highlights. The event jumps to a start with the “Art an Artisan Market” at 10 a.m., while at the same time Victor Lundeen’s is hosting “Santa Story Time” at their store. While we are shopping and listening to stories, Santa will be flying in from the North Pole. Be listening to 97.7 on the radio for updates of his progress. He is scheduled to land at the Municipal Airport at 10:30 with a photo session to follow. There will be more opportunities to visit Santa from 2-5 p.m. at City Hall. 

Children of all ages should be working on their dog’s costume for “Deck the Paws Pawrade” at 2:30 p.m. on Court Street. Rep. Bud Nornes is the grand marshall of this parade! Registration is $5 and all proceeds will go to the Humane Society. From 12-5 p.m., Springboard for the Arts will be hosting ornament making and photo booth options for young and old. Cookies with Santa will be available at The Market from 1-3 p.m., and Otter Cove will have live reindeer and reindeer activities from 3-5.

If you like music, the Heart O’ Lakes Harmony Barbershop Chorus will be performing in council chambers at City Hall at 3 p.m. followed by the 204th Army Band Brass Quintet from Fort Snelling at 4 p.m. Our own Front and Center Singers will round out this entertainment at 5 p.m. There will also be music at Lincoln Center stating with the Kennedy School orchestral quartet followed by the Hillcrest Worship Collaboration. 

Did I mention the horse-drawn carriage rides? They are so fun! And for the more adventurous there will be tri-shaw rides. (Three-wheeled conveyances, like a pedicab.) The inside scoop tells me tri-shaw rides are dependent upon the weather. Otter Tail Nordic Ski association will be giving cross country ski lessons behind Lincoln Center at 4 p.m. 

Along Court Street, Fergus Brewing Company will sponsor a beer garden with a bonfire (to keep you warm) from noon to 5 p.m. A variety of food vendors will have taste tempting treats for sale to keep up your strength. Local restaurants will also be open. Free hot cider will be served at the FFDRC info booth, with hot chocolate offered at Namaste Hot 12-4 p.m. LB Homes will warm visitors with hot chocolate during the tree lighting ceremony. 

Cornerstone Church, downtown Fergus Falls, is hosting family ornament making, the Girl Scouts are wrapping gifts at Lincoln Center and the Boy Scouts are helping with the bonfires throughout downtown. The entire community is getting into the act!

The day’s grand finale will culminate at Wright Park with a candlelight tree lighting ceremony and fireworks. Caroling will begin at 5 p.m. The tree lighting ceremony will commence at 6:30 p.m. with the 204th playing the “Star Spangled Banner” as the tree is lit and fireworks explode the sky! 

This is one event your grandkids will remember for a lifetime. Let’s make new memories together. Join the entire community and come to the Over the River Holiday Festival. Saturday, Dec. 7 with events starting at 10 a.m. and continuing throughout the day. Tree lighting and fireworks at 6:30 p.m.


Sue Wilken is a lifelong resident of Fergus Falls. Her column appears on Thursday.


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