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After big year in 2020, Grand Forks' 'Christmas in the Park' opens for holiday season

Event to include 60 light displays, accompanied by music, as viewers drive through the park

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Lions Club volunteer Clair Zirnhelt stands next to one of the "Christmas in the Park" displays at Lincoln Park recently. The annual event is November 26-December 31 with proceeds donated to local charities. Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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In 2020, more than 3,500 vehicles toured "Christmas in the Park" in Grand Forks, resulting in almost double the usual revenue earned for the event.

It likely was due to the pandemic, which had kept people indoors for so long, said Clair Zirnhelt, coordinator of this year's event. Driving through Lincoln Park is a safe way to take in holiday cheer with family, while avoiding close-contact situations that can come in big crowds.

Could 2021 see a similar turnout? Zirnhelt isn't sure, but he's hopeful.

“The Lions hope that many residents will take time to drive through these displays,” he said. “There can never be too much Christmas cheer, and a drive-through ‘Christmas in the Park’ will greatly enhance your family’s holidays.”

The Lions clubs again are hosting their annual “Christmas in the Park” event, which features a series of holiday-themed light displays in Lincoln Park. The event begins Friday, Nov. 26 and ends Dec. 31.

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Nearly 60 displays can be viewed from 5:30 to 10 nightly as guests drive along the Lincoln Park loop, located off Belmont Road. New displays have been added to enhance the experience for this year’s visitors.

The Lions clubs will again feature animated light displays accompanied by holiday music. There will be different music each night; visitors will be invited to tune in to a specific FM station, 96.5, to hear it as they drive through the park.

Candy canes will be given to children, compliments of the local Lions clubs.

Members of the four Grand Forks Lions clubs “are joining forces again to bring the Grand Cities an exciting venue to celebrate the Christmas season,” Zirnhelt said.

Lions club members have put in about 60 hours of work, preparing the displays over the past two weeks, he said. This is the only project that involves all the Grand Forks clubs – the South Forks Lions, UND Lions, Grand Forks Lions and Red River Lions.

“The technology that we’ve been using for the last several years is all LED, and we try to buy (displays) with motion,” Zirnhelt said. “Probably (the one with) the most motion is the Ferris wheel with all the chairs going around on it and, besides that, the base of the unit lit up as well.”

Businesses and organizations can create their own display or sponsor a display, he said.

Reaction from visitors is “always good,” Zirnhelt said, noting that people are pretty quick to alert him if a display is not working properly.

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The animated tree at the end of the route, a popular display, will be replaced this year, using a new computerized operating system, and has been funded by a grant, a “very generous gift” from the Myra Foundation, he said.

Admission is $8 per car, $10 per limo and $20 per bus. Visitors may pay by cash, check or their personal Venmo account – a new option for payment this year.

Profits from “Christmas in the Park” are used to benefit various charities, area youth programs and camps for people with handicaps. Funds also are used to provide eye exams and glasses for children in need.

Organizations that have received funds as a result of “Christmas in the Park” include the American Diabetes Association, Red Cross, North Dakota School for the Blind, Circle of Friends Humane Society, the Boy and Girl Scouts, the Leader Dog for the Blind program, the Third Street Clinic and the Community Violence Intervention Center.

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Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at pknudson@gfherald.com or (701) 780-1107.
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