If last weekend's light snowfall didn't put you in the Christmas spirit, then this weekend's schedule of activities in La Crescent should get you well on your way.
Friday marks the annual Christmas in La Crescent celebration, and this year promises to offer more family activities than ever. Events begin with Santa's arrival that afternoon and continue throughout the evening until the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train pulls away after another visit to La Crescent.
Early events, which include the Friends of the Library cookie walk and Santa's visit, begin their three-hour run at 4 p.m. at the La Crescent Community Building. While the grown-ups shop for holiday baked goods, Santa will share stories and take photos with children.
At 5:30 p.m., the La Crescent Chamber of Commerce will serve a sloppy joe and hot dog supper for a donation, which will be given to the La Crescent Area Food Shelf. While hungry guests chow down, sounds of Christmas will fill the fire station, as Bells of Peace -Prince of Peace Lutheran Church's bell choir - and the La Crescent High School jazz band will provide musical entertainment, according to chamber executive secretary Eileen Krenz.
Once warmed by the spirit of Old St. Nick (and the sloppy joes), guests can venture outdoors for the third annual winter parade, which begins at the Crucifixion School parking lot, heads east on South Second Street, north on South Walnut Street, west on Main Street and south on South Oak Street, ending at the fire station. The parade steps off at 7 p.m. and fire pits will be available for warmth along the route.
Krenz said the number of entries - which includes a food shelf float where donations can be made - is right about where it was last year, but expects more could enter the night of the parade.
"I would anticipate that we'll be at or better than where we've been," she said. "It's progressively growing."
She said people have enjoyed it enough to bring it back for another go-round.
"I think that I've gotten enough positive comments from people just watching the parade, that we'll continue to do it until we don't have people who are willing to put themselves out there in the cold," Krenz said. "It's a neat idea."
But the fun doesn't end with the last float in the lineup. At 8:45 p.m., the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train - sporting its festively decorated boxcars and high-energy entertainment - will chug its way into La Crescent for the fourth-consecutive year.
It's the 13th year the Holiday Train, billed as North America's longest-running rolling food bank fundraiser, will trek across eight states and six Canadian provinces. Since 1999, the train has raised $5.6 million and generated nearly 2.5 million pounds of food for local food shelves. In past visits, it has donated $1,500 to the La Crescent Area Food Shelf, and another donation is expected this year, Krenz said.
The train is made up of 14 rail cars decorated with thousands of lights. It also pulls along a modified boxcar that's been converted into a musical stage for performers, which this year includes Milwaukee folk rocker Willy Porter.
This year, the train will pause along the tracks near a grassy area north of the former La Crescent Orchard Supply building on South Chestnut Street. Parking is available, but for those who'd prefer a ride, Ready Bus Line has donated a shuttle that'll take people from the fire station to the train beginning about 7:45 p.m. In addition, a horse-drawn wagon will be giving rides from 7:30 to 9 p.m. between Truss Specialists to the train site.
Hot chocolate and coffee will be served, and La Crescent High School seniors Annie Jackson and Anna Skemp will provide musical entertainment at 8 p.m. before the train's arrival.
Krenz said the train's visit coinciding with Christmas in La Crescent was purely coincidental, but she's excited it could be tied in with the rest of the night's offerings.
"We kind of wanted to make it a weekend event," Krenz said.
And thanks to the ABLE Foundation, it will be. The foundation, which provides financial support and awareness for ABLE, Inc. - an organization that provides services for individuals with developmental disabilities in Houston County - is sponsoring a holiday home tour from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday.
A home tour is nothing new to La Crescent, but this is the first time ABLE has been involved, said Maria Henry, the ABLE Foundation's fundraising and public relations manager. Krenz and the Christmas in
La Crescent committee approached the organization last year about sponsoring a tour, but it wasn't to be. This year, however, the foundation decided to take it on as a fundraiser for ABLE.
Six homes will be participating in the tour this year, Henry said, and a list of those who'd like to take part next year is already started.
Tickets can be purchased ahead of time or at any of the homes on the tour. It's a self-guided tour, where visitors can spend as little or as much time at any house as they'd like. There's a variety of houses, and anybody who goes on the tour is likely to come away with decorating ideas that suit their own homes and tastes, Henry said.
"We have a new home owner who's a very creative decorator, and we have a couple of day care providers who really get into the holidays and decorating, so those will be fun displays, I'm sure," said Henry, adding that holiday treats or appetizers and refreshments may be served, at the homeowners' discretion.
It's an important fundraiser for ABLE, as money raised will directly benefit the people ABLE supports. One of the foundation's focuses this year is raising money to build a new teaching and recreation center for residents in Caledonia.
"It's something that's been put on the back burner for some time, just because of the cuts that ABLE, as an agency, is facing," Henry said, "so we haven't been able to adequately put time and resources into that.
"The space is no longer suiting ABLE's needs and is no longer handicap-assessible, so we need to deal with that," she added.
A portion of the proceeds will also go toward maintaining the level of care for people ABLE serves agency-wide.
Henry's glad the home tour was passed along to ABLE.
"We're really proud to be a part of the Christmas in La Crescent weekend," she said. "We only hope to grow this event each year."