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Annual Holiday Lights Parade turns on the Christmas spirit

Nancy Carriveau and her son, Sage Carriveau-Johnson, watch the glowing lights during a past Holiday Lights Parade. Forum file photo1 / 6
The Grinch waved from the Vocational Training Center float during a past parade. Forum file photo2 / 6
Moorhead utility vehicles were decorated for a past Xcel Energy Holiday Lights Parade in downtown Moorhead. Forum file photo3 / 6
"Santa's Water Treatment Plant" was featured on a float during a past parade. Forum file photo4 / 6
The annual Xcel Energy Holiday Lights Parade often includes vehicles with reindeer antlers. Forum file photo5 / 6
Melissa Rademacher is the new president and CEO of the Downtown Community Partnership. Special to The Forum6 / 6

FARGO—The Xcel Energy Holiday Lights Parade rolls through downtown Moorhead and Fargo tonight. While North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum will lead the way as the grand marshal, the smile that shines brightest tonight might belong to Melissa Rademacher, the new president and CEO of the Downtown Community Partnership.

Tonight's parade will be the first big event since she got the job in early October.

"Coming out of the chute hot," she says with a laugh.

The parade is a particularly exciting coronation for Rademacher, previously a business development manager for Kilbourne Group, Burgum's development company that owns a number of downtown Fargo properties.

"I have great memories of the parade. It's one of those family-friendly events that brings you down (here) and gets you into that holiday spirit," says the mother of a 9-year-old son.

The theme this year is Wrapped Up in the Holidays. The parade starts at 6:30 p.m. at the intersection of Center Avenue and Eighth Street in Moorhead and heads west into downtown Fargo on NP Avenue, before turning north on Broadway and ending at Sixth Avenue North.

Before the parade starts, Moorhead turns on the excitement at 5 p.m. with its Holiday Kickoff at Moorhead Center Mall that includes refreshments, carolers and the lighting of the Christmas tree.

Planning for the parade started before Rademacher came on board, but she says the event is always a crowd-pleaser.

"It's always beautiful downtown. The weather doesn't always cooperate, but it's one of those times of year I look forward to with friends and family," she says.

The parade attracts dozens of different businesses and organizations to decorate vehicles with lights and spread Christmas cheer. From city buses and farm implements to pickups packed with church carolers, or dancers on their feet, the streets are alive no matter the weather.

There will be prizes for the most impressive and creative floats.

"I always look for the underdogs. We get new ones every year, and this year we'll have about 100 floats again ... there's always one that seems to stick out that's a public favorite," Rademacher says. "I always root for the underdogs, the one that has music and is entertaining and throws out the most candy."

She won't be down on the street scooping up candy, though. She'll be enjoying the show from the second floor of The Title Company, on the corner of NP Avenue and Fourth Street, N., Fargo, where the Downtown Community Partnership hosts a viewing party.

While the streetlights are already illuminated with strands of light, when asked when the lights in the trees lining the streets will be turned on, Rademacher says, it's a "surprise."

"It will happen as the Grand Marshal comes into view. We're hoping we can accentuate his entrance with this surprise," she says. "People have been asking when we're going to do certain things downtown, and we're going to try to choreograph this based on what the public loves about downtown this time of year."

Though Burgum is the guest of honor, she says downtown will be the real star.

"Downtown will definitely be festive and ready for the parade," she says. "We hope everyone enjoys it as much as we have in mind. Hopefully there's a little celebration for the public."

If You Go

What: Xcel Energy Holiday Lights Parade

When: Downtown Moorhead and Fargo

Where: The parade starts at 6:30 p.m. in downtown Moorhead.