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John Lamb, Published November 25 2009

Parade fans warm to good weather

The lights were the stars of Tuesday’s Xcel Energy Holiday Lights Parade in the downtowns of Fargo and Moorhead, but the weather created much of the buzz.

“Man, how did we slide between a rainy day and a blowing snow day?” asked Dave Anderson, president of Fargo’s Downtown Community Partnership, which organized the festive procession. “I think we really lucked out.”

A clear, warm afternoon only dropped into the mid-40s as participants started lining up at 5 p.m. along Center Avenue and Eighth Street in Moorhead.

Temperatures were expected to drop today, with light snow falling and winds picking up. Clouds are expected to burn off Thursday, with temperatures climbing into the 40s for the holiday weekend.

There was no grand marshal for this year’s parade. Anderson said organizers wanted to focus on LED lights as an energy-efficient way of decorating during the holiday season.

City vehicles, various utility trucks and even fire trucks were strung with lights.

The parade kicked off shortly after 6:30, led by the color guard with Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland following in a golf cart and his Fargo counterpart, Dennis Walaker, riding passenger in a Fargo fire truck.

A subsequent fire truck carried Fargo’s newest celebrity, Josie Green, the 18-year-old who saved a man from the Red River on Friday.

“It’s kind of like my hometown parade, but way bigger,” Green said, adding that parades in her hometown of Wilmot, S.D., only have about five vehicles.

Anderson estimated about 120 entries this year, the same number as last year, and called the parade “one of our biggest.”

Along with a number of decorated utility trucks, radio station vehicles and rolling church displays was a float by Skills USA, a vocational leadership program at Fargo South High. Towed behind a shortened minivan, a trailer carried students who hit grinders to metal causing showers of sparks to the crowd’s delight.

As the parade wrapped up about 8 p.m., revelers moved to the evergreen in the U.S. Bank plaza to watch the lighting of the tree.

A fireworks display from the former U.S. Bank parking ramp traditionally closed the parade, but Anderson said the show was scrapped with the demolition of the “launch pad” and not knowing if the ground-level parking lot in its place would be finished in time.

Anderson said LED wreaths awarded to the top three floats will be announced next week.

But if crowd reaction was any indication, it might go to the fire truck Green rode in.

As the truck crept down Broadway, Trish Thorson of Fargo yelled, “Way to go, sister!”

“I thought it was wonderful. That’s what this city’s all about,” Thorson said. When asked if she meant Green’s heroic act or the parade, she said, “All of it.”

“Fargo is the greatest city,” she said, adding that her house was recently bought out after flood damage. “I’ve lived in Kansas City and Nashville, and I would never live anywhere else.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533