Little Falls might look a little brighter this holiday season.
Monday, the Little Falls City Council expressed it had no concerns over a citizen-led project to bring more holiday lights to town. Public Works Director Greg Kimman said Kris VonBerge of Visit Little Falls — formerly the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau — approached him about a project to string lights on the Memorial Bridge across the Mississippi River and connect to “winter wonderlands” in parks on both sides.
Lights would go up in Maple Island and James Green parks on the east side of the river, and Le Bourget Park on the west.
“These wouldn’t have any messages or anything like that,” Kimman said. “It would be strictly lights that would line the pathways as well as some of the trees in the area. The first stage, I think, would be the lights across the bridge, kind of connecting the two.”
VonBerge said the idea came from a visit to Sartell with her sister last winter. She said they went to the city’s Country Lights Festival. Near the Sartell Community Center, the festival is a month-long display surrounding a pond. Holiday lights line a 33-acre path, and music is provided by a local radio station.
After making a few phone calls, she learned the logistics of how the festival works. It was something she felt could be implemented in Little Falls.
“It’s a way to bring together both sides of Little Falls, with the lights going over the bridge and into Le Bourget Park — with the trees right on the river — and Maple Island, with the dam and all of the trees,” VonBerge said. “The way the trees hang over the sidewalk, it will create kind of a winter wonderland on the walkway (in Maple Island Park).”
VonBerge said now that she gotten the City Council’s blessing, her next step is to talk with local businesses and civic organizations about sponsoring some of the lights. Donors would pay for the initial cost of the lights, but they would ultimately be donated to the city of Little Falls.
If the project moves forward, VonBerge said Levi’s Lawn and Outdoors has agreed to put up the display. Monday evening, she also received word from Minnesota Power that they are ready to partner up for the project in some capacity.
Along with local businesses, she is also working with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to ensure the display can go up on the Memorial Bridge.
“We do have decorations on there already with the wreaths,” Kimman said. “This would basically be on the railings to illuminate that a little more, as well.”
Mayor Greg Zylka expressed his support for the project. He felt it was a great idea that would be good for the community as a whole.
“I enjoy, myself, driving around and looking at the lights,” Zylka said. “It almost seems like Pierz has outshone us in the past. I just think that would be good for locals and for outsiders to come in and tour the town. And, maybe, we could have a couple events — hot chocolate or something — in both parks. That could be really good.”
VonBerge said she was also excited about what adding lights could mean for the city. She mentioned the possibility of local organizations selling hot chocolate or other refreshments, as well as the potential extra traffic to downtown businesses.
“Something like this will pay the town back for funding it because of the economic boost downtown,” VonBerge said. “I’m really excited about it.”