Forum staff reports, Published December 01 2001
Lights for LanningThe muffled clapping of mitten-clad hands greeted the lighting of Moorhead's official holiday tree Friday evening in Memorial Park.
But the louder applause was for Mayor Morris Lanning, who will be stepping down at the end of December after holding his office for 22 years.
When Lanning, assisted by his wife, Ruthie, and daughter, Ann, pulled the garland-covered lever that lit the tree, it was one of his last official acts as mayor, he said.
And Moorhead officials wanted to make sure he didn't leave quietly after serving more than two decades as mayor.
"Tonight's celebration is not just the lighting of a tree, it's also a recognition of someone who has given much time and energy to the city," said Moorhead Parks and Recreation Director Riaz Aziz, who wore a strand of colored lights around his neck.
Lanning told an audience of about 50 people that he has received thanks for his time of service every day since announcing his decision not to run for re-election in August.
"This is a time for me to start making a transition, and I want you to know how much I appreciate the support I've had from many, many people in the community," Lanning said.
"It's been a labor of love. I've thoroughly enjoyed working for the city," he said.
The tree, a 25-foot conifer that stands just west of the new Red Bear Grill & Tavern, draped with colored lights and others shaped like Christmas ornaments replaces the discontinued tradition of decorating a tree next to Moorhead city hall.
The ceremony, prefaced by the serving of hot chocolate and cookies in the park's gazebo, ended in song.
In front of the lighted tree, Moorhead High School carolers dressed in Dickensian costumes -- boys in top hats and cravats and girls sporting bonnets and white hand muffs -- finished the ceremony by singing traditional English carols.