On December 3rd, Stillwater began their festive lights display which will be open through March. Visitors can walk through an LED lit path, and enjoy looking at ice sculptures and trees decked out with lights. Senior Annie McGuire looks through the lights tunnel towards the St. Croix River.  

It may have only been one year since the city was last dressed in lights, but for many it felt like  an eternity. 

It is no controversial statement to say 2020 has been a rough year, and even the holiday season ended up looking different. With Covid-19 restricting family gatherings and church services, it was a holiday season that was unique for all the wrong reasons.

However, Stillwater businesses came together to ensure the holiday trappings of the city returned, bringing a little more holiday cheer with them.

Almost every street is strewn with lights, wreaths and other decorations. Even the city’s famous Lift Bridge has been decorated with lights for the first time ever.

This festive display would not have been possible without the many businesses who sponsored it. One such business is the Midtown Antiques Mall. The manager, Kristin Schmitz, confirmed a positive response.

“People seemed happy and cheerful. I’ve seen a lot of social media- like, good feedback on social media about it,” Schmitz said.

“It just made us feel better, and [it was] just something fun to do that’s outside and the kids really appreciated it, and [to] get us in the spirit of Christmas,” visitor Kristin Keyer said.

Of course, the lights did not just cheer people up. They were also great for bringing people to the area and making them stick around a little longer, which was a boon for local small businesses, even ones who didn’t directly sponsor the project.

“We actually were headed down there to do some local takeout,”Keyer said. “And then we saw the lights, so we just decided to eat the takeout and then head out and kind of check out all the Christmas lights that were downtown.”

The businesses have noticed this. According to Schmitz, “I think it’s keeping our activity somewhat steady, I suppose, so maybe not increased but it’s helping keep us, you know, keeping people here.”

Gretchen West, the manager of Valley Bookseller, supported this statement.

“Any event that brings people to downtown Stillwater is good for local business.”

And it’s certainly local businesses that need it. Around 100,000 small businesses have shut down permanently this year. Luckily, there are many people who make a conscious choice to support them.

“Since we’ve been reopened,” Schmitz said, “the public has been going out of their way to support small businesses.”

Both businesses have also confirmed an intent to sponsor next year’s lights. West simply stated, “absolutely” when asked about it.

Schmitz added, “I think there was a good collaboration amongst all the businesses in the Independent Business Association in the city. And I think hopefully...they’ll see how they worked well together and find opportunities to do more stuff like that in the future.”

Even though this time may seem hopeless and dark, this proves there will always be people willing to turn on the light.

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