Best Bets: Santa arrives on the Madeline Island Ferry

Find something to do this week in the Northland.

A ferry is seen at a dock, with a crowd of people in winter jackets surrounding the ramp as Santa Claus holds a microphone and waves an arm in the air.
Santa Claus greets families in Bayfield, Wisc. after arriving on the Madeline Island Ferry.
Contributed / Bayfield Chamber and Visitor Bureau
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DULUTH — December has arrived, and the Northland is hopping with seasonal events. Check out our holiday guide for lots of recommendations; here are six more things happening this week.

The Zenith City's Christmas season kicks off this weekend with a parade and a lights display. Grab your calendar and peruse our guide to what's coming up.

Santa comes to Bayfield

Santa's no stranger to the Northland, which must feel a lot like home to the North Pole citizen. He likes to arrive in style, and nothing says style like a Madeline Island Ferry. Saturday at 11:30 a.m., a ferry will bring the jolly fellow and an elf to the mainland, where kids (and, of course, adults) can meet them for a stroll to the Bayfield Lakeside Pavilion. Bring your own camera for photo ops. Plus, the Bayfield Chamber and Visitor Bureau promises to provide goody bags and refreshments. For details, see

Lourey and Stonich at Fitger's

A white-presenting woman sits for a headshot. She has long brown hair, dark-framed eyeglasses, and a purple sweater.
Jess Lourey.
Contributed / CK Photography

Authors Jess Lourey and Sarah Stonich will be in The Boat Club's Fireside Room at 5 p.m. Wednesday, showcasing their latest novels in an event sponsored by the Bookstore at Fitger's. Lourey's "The Quarry Girls" is a thriller set in St. Cloud in the 1970s, inspired by a still-unsolved double murder. "I did not want to put this book down," wrote Kelsey Hawley in the Rochester Post Bulletin. "In fact, I know this book will be one of those I go back to read a few times in my lifetime." Stonich ("Vacationland") has a new comic novel called "Reeling," about an all-women fishing talk show that heads to New Zealand. For details, see

"A Christmas Story" in Virginia

A child in a pink bunny suit and another child in a winter coat pose, smiling, near a lamp in the shape of a stockinged woman's leg
The iconic bunny suit and "leg lamp" make their appearances in the Laurentian Arts and Culture Alliance's production of "A Christmas Story: The Musical."
Contributed / Lyric Center for the Arts

With the sequel "A Christmas Story Christmas" now streaming on HBO Max, Virginia's Laurentian Arts and Culture Alliance (Lyric Center for the Arts) is presenting a musical theater adaptation of the cult classic 1983 film. It's the organization's first all-ages musical production since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, noted executive director Paul M. Gregersen in a statement. "The Old Man’s infamous 'major award' leg lamp is going to look beautiful glowing through the front windows of the Lyric as we get closer to the holidays.” The show opens Thursday at Minnesota North College's Mesabi Range Virginia Campus and runs through Dec. 18. For tickets and information, see


Dark Sky Festival

Snowy road leading through fir trees, with vivid green-and-pink aurora borealis visible in the sky.
Travis Novitsky, the photographer who captured this image of the aurora borealis, was part of the team behind the documentary film "Northern Nights, Starry Skies."
Contributed / Visit Cook County

Sometimes being far away from Hollywood floodlights and Broadway marquees can be a good thing: it lets you see the natural beauty of the night sky. Visit Cook County boasts of the arrowhead region's "world-class dark sky," and the annual Dark Sky Festival celebrates the wonders of the cosmos as seen from the shores of Lake Superior and nearby Northland.

This year's festival runs from Thursday through Saturday in and around Grand Marais and the Gunflint Trail, with several activities, talks and film screenings. The star (so to speak) visitor is Andrea Jones, NASA’s public engagement lead of the Solar System Exploration Division at Goddard Space Flight Center. For more information, see

Holly Jolly Get Down

Exterior of Bent Paddle Brewing Co. shows logo painted on the side of a brick building, with faded "Enger & Olson Furniture Warehouse" painted words below
Bent Paddle Brewing Co. is hosting a "Holly Jolly Get Down" at its Lincoln Park taproom.
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune

Finally, that ugly Christmas sweater that never wins your office competition can pay off. Bent Paddle is offering $1 off pints all night for people who wear tacky jumpers to their Holly Jolly Get Down on Saturday. AfroGeode & The Gemstones and the Lyla Abukhodair Band are providing live music for the event, which the brewery is pitching as a sort of afterparty to Enger Lofts' Deck the Halls holiday fair. For details, see

Ugly sweaters in Superior

Tower Avenue Tavern sign on building wall, with stylized T and A red letters in the center of a white circle.
Superior's Tower Avenue Tavern is hosting its annual Ugly Christmas Sweater Party this Saturday.
Jay Gabler / Duluth News Tribune

You can get even more mileage out of that ugly — or, perhaps, just extremely festive — sweater at Superior's Tower Avenue Tavern. On Saturday, the venue is inviting patrons to "wear your ugliest Christmas sweater and join us for drinks and prizes." DJ Dave will be spinning from 8 p.m. to midnight. For more information, see

Arts and entertainment reporter Jay Gabler joined the Duluth News Tribune in February 2022. His previous experience includes eight years as a digital producer at The Current (Minnesota Public Radio), four years as theater critic at Minneapolis alt-weekly City Pages, and six years as arts editor at the Twin Cities Daily Planet. He's a co-founder of pop culture and creative writing blog The Tangential; and a member of the National Book Critics Circle. You can reach him at or 218-279-5536.
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