There came Santa Claus right down Santa Claus lane on the RRV&W on the cold and frigid Saturday morning of Dec. 14, in Breckenridge, Minnesota. Horns were honking and kids were running with snow boots and mittens to greet Santa’s arrival to the Twin Towns.
The frigid weather may have kept many families from greeting Santa off the train, but it did not stop them from meeting him at the Breckenridge Family Community Center shortly after. Mandy Steinberger, director of the center, estimated that nearly 200 people came to visit for cookies, hot chocolate, coloring and greeting Mr. Claus.
Once Santa came to the center, children and family members lined up to sit on Santa’s lap for a photo and a chance to share their Christmas wishes. Ol’ St. Nick gave children candy canes, a friendly smile and an ear for listening about their good behavior and Christmas wishes.
“It was great. Everyone had a lot of fun and so did Santa,” Steinberger said. “We’re glad that we can provide this to the community. It’s a great time of the year to get together and get the kids out. It was a really great way to enjoy a really cold day.”
“This is something people look forward to and the kids enjoy it,” Assistant Director of the Wahpeton Breckenridge area of Commerce Lisa Kunkel said. “Mandy did a wonderful job at the community center. We are grateful for her.”
The community center worked with the chamber to bring Santa into town and hold this event. After the community center, he made his way to Heritage Square in Wahpeton, North Dakota, to visit with more community members and to spread holiday cheer.
Editor’s Note: This month’s Point of View asks residents to share how they celebrate the holiday season.
Christmas traditions are a bit like snowflakes. There’s a universal quality to them matched by certain idiosyncrasies.
When I was a boy, Christmas was a singular thing. I didn’t really think about a season, or how many celebrations there are. It was like a red and green, pine-scented, candy cane-shaped monolith.
Twenty-odd years ago, when my hair was blonder and curlier and my voice squeakier, Christmas was always spent at my Grandma Chris’ home in Detroit. In recent years, I’ve gone from having one big event celebration to two. I now annually alternate my visits to branches of the extended family.
I recently asked a few friends and neighbors about their shared and personal holiday hallmarks.
Deklyn Barth, 6, loves spending time with her grandma, June Foster. Foster’s home is small but well-decorated.
“I have just a little bit outside on the deck,” she said. “And she (Deklyn) loves to help me decorate the windows. It’s something we do together.”
Trying to celebrate with her four children and their extended families isn’t easy, Foster said. However, she’s learned to adapt.
“FaceTime is just perfect for us all to see each other and celebrate,” Foster said.
For Bruce Eckre, the Christmas Eve meal is similar to the Thanksgiving meal. After the turkey, mashed potatoes and more are finished, he enjoys watching holiday specials on TV.
“The different college concerts, from Concordia and Jamestown — it’s fun to watch them. The music’s fabulous,” he said.
Nicci Bigwood, like me, grew up in Michigan. She’s from Grand Ledge and I’m from Grand Rapids. A mother of three, Bigwood said she sometimes lets her kids open their gifts on Christmas Eve.
“They were actually disappointed the year that I didn’t give them pajamas,” Bigwood said. “I think they expect it.”
Bigwood is a clerk at the Leach Public Library, Wahpeton. Years ago, Library Director Melissa Bakken did a lot of holiday decorating.
“That was when it was easier to climb the ladder,” Bakken said, laughing.
Jana Berndt’s parents were on the cutting edge of a trend. They were among the first generation of Americans to be fond of fondue. At the same time, they also knew that when something works, keep it around.
“My mom and dad stared fonduing in their 20s. For 60 years, we’ve been fonduing as a family,” Berndt said.
It doesn’t look like Berndt will be enjoying the savory cheese and sweet chocolate this year, however.
“I’m going to be a first-time grandmother,” she said. “My daughter (Emily Steele) is expecting on Christmas Day. This year, Christmas plans aren’t so sure. Maybe her gift will be opened for us at the hospital.”
Zookeepers who come from all over the United States to work for Chahinkapa Zoo are still able to have a homestyle Christmas. Zoo Director Kathy Diekman said she, Zoo Curator Tom Schmaltz and their family always invite the zookeepers over.
“We’ll have our grown children and grandchildren, too,” Diekman said. “Everybody’s home at the same time. It’s much more fun to run into each other, with lots of people together, than lose somebody in a big house.”
Diekman loves Christmas lights and decorations. Her house includes five trees, one of which is authentic rather than artificial. Kent Loken, meanwhile, sticks to interior decorations. He’s been known to celebrate New Year’s Eve in a special way.
“If I’m home, and we are a lot, I’ll take my trumpet into the driveway and play ‘Auld Lang Syne’ at the stroke of midnight,” Loken said. “The entire neighborhood now knows it’s the new year.”
“Auld Lang Syne” is featured in one of Bakken’s favorite films, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
“I’d encourage everyone to see it,” she said. “We have to remember that every day’s a blessing.”
Beloved by generations of movie fans, “It’s a Wonderful Life” includes dialogue that has never failed to move me. It’s right at the very end, when nearly everyone in Bedford Falls donates what they can to the Bailey family.
“They didn’t ask any questions — just said, ‘If George is in trouble, count me in …’”
Even typing the words is a bit overwhelming. Has there ever been a clearer example of decency? Charity? Community?
It was a lot of fun asking everyday people about their Christmas traditions. But I had someone special in mind.
“Well, I open my presents on Christmas Day,” Santa Claus said during a recent visit to Chahinkapa Zoo. “Those are the special ones. The ones I give, they mean something.”
Christmas Day, for obvious reasons, is a day of rest for St. Nick.
“The elves have their party that day,” Santa said. “I might have my celebration on New Year’s Eve.”
And how does Santa like to party?
“With a big cup of milk and chocolate chip cookies,” he said, with a hearty, jolly laugh.
There are many Christmas traditions and celebrations. But there is just one Christmas.
Snow fell indoors Friday, Dec. 13 in Wahpeton.
A pair of flakes turned friends, Elaine (Madeline Graves) and Dave (Hunter Boelke) led “Chosen Too,” the main event of St. John’s Elementary’s Christmas pageant. Graves and Boelke are both sixth graders at St. John’s.
Between their bonding, Elaine and Dave shared the story of Mary (Ashlyn Wohlers), Joseph (Will Berge) and the Nativity with each other and the audience. “Chosen Too” and an opening concert played to a near-capacity audience at the 500-seat Bremer Bank Theatre, North Dakota State College of Science, Wahpeton.
“This was probably one of our biggest crowds ever,” St. John’s Principal Renee Langenwalter said.
Sandy Olson, Lana Sand and Jean Hoerer all directed the Christmas pageant. St. John’s is currently without a permanent music teacher, Langenwalter said.
“I’m just really pleased with the outcome of the pageant,” Langenwalter said. “The directors did a beautiful job and the students’ performances were amazing.”
“Chosen Too” and the concert included the talents of numerous students from grades K-6. The evening featured holiday favorites sung and played for the enthusiastic audience.
Among the songs were:
• “I Saw Grandma Kissing Santa Claus,” featuring Lyara Pausch and Axel Mauch as the title pair
• “Frosty the Snowman,” with Grayson Cory as the jolly, happy soul and Liam Dohman and Pyper Puchalski as the kids who created him
• “O Christmas Tree,” performed on the piano by Gracie Falck with Claire Woods on bells
• “Mary, Did You Know?” sung by grades 3-6 and featuring Gracin Kaste, Stacy Martinez and Marley Klein
Christmas events are continuing throughout the Twin Towns Area.
“A Magical Medora Christmas” returns for its fifth annual performance at NDSCS. “Home for Christmas” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 18 at the Bremer Bank Theatre. Headliners include host Bill Sorensen, “Queen of the West” Emily Walter, singer-actor Job Christenson, newcomers Kim Willow and Travis Smith and bandleader Chad Willow.
It’s not too late to catch some non-musical Christmas attractions.
Holiday Lane, which opens at dusk each evening, is on display through Tuesday, Dec. 31. A free, public lights display, Holiday Lane is located along Laura Hughes Drive in Chahinkapa Park, Wahpeton.
The Red Door Art Gallery, 418 Dakota Ave. in Wahpeton, has holiday and winter-themed artwork on display through Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020.
St. John’s pageant concluded with “Silent Night” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Organizers were thankful to the St. John’s faculty and staff, as well as NDSCS crew members, for making the experience so pleasant.
“May God’s love and grace be with you all this Christmas season,” Olson, Sand and Hoerer wrote.
Look to Daily News, in print and online, for coverage of holiday events in the Twin Towns Area.
1. This Day in History: In 1903, Orville Wright made the first controlled, sustained flight in a power-driven airplane. An attempt to re-create the Wright brothers’ inaugural flight on North Carolina’s Outer Banks failed to take off in 2003, on the first flight’s 100-year anniversary.
2. Conservative Democrat: Rep. Collin Peterson is expected to vote against impeaching President Trump when the issue comes up for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. Peterson, who represents western Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District, which includes Wilkin County, has not yet announced whether he’ll seek a 16th term.
3. Efforts to cap post-release probation: The Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission will hold a hearing Thursday, Dec. 19 on a plan that will prevent judges from setting probation longer than five year, except for those convicted of homicide and sex offenses. Any changes to the sentencing guidelines automatically take effect in August 2020, unless the Legislature rejects them.
4. Refugee resettlement: Will be limited to three North Dakota counties – Burleigh, Grand Forks and Cass. Lutheran Social Services said it won’t be asking for consent from any other counties because it resettles refugees only in the state’s three most populous counties.
Breckenridge Public Utilities Commission heard crew updates from Director of Public Utilities Neil Crocker on Monday, Dec. 16 at city hall.
The electric crew is working on work orders, year-end inventory, tree trimming and with the Breckenridge High School to work on their football field floodlights.
Crocker has been in contact with the school to upgrade four floodlight poles’ hardware in the transformers at the football field. Crocker and Chad Frederickson, Breckenridge High School activity director, have decided to wait until the ground freezes before moving forward with upgrading transformers.
Crocker also offered to do a low-cost inspection of the lights in order to give the school a better idea of what to moving forward, whether that be additional upgrades or total replacement.
The water crew is finishing with their meter reading and reaching overflow capacity at the new water plant.
PKG Contracting visited the water plant last week working with the mixing chamber. The Breckenridge crew is also working with changing the chemistry, Crocker explained. These steps are being taken to bring the new plant to be running full capacity at 1000 gallons per minute.
The board’s next meeting will be held at 2 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 6 at Breckenridge City Hall.