Michelle Lee and Barbara Reyelts both have been involved with Duluth's Christmas City of the North Parade for decades.
This year's parade will likely rank among the most memorable.
It was announced during KBJR-TV's pre-parade newscast Friday evening that this would be the last time hosting the parade for the two longtime Northland broadcast journalists. Both are leaving the business - Lee at the end of December and Reyelts in August.
"It felt like the time to let people know," Lee said Friday afternoon.
KBJR's story about Reyelts and Lee included old footage and their favorite parade moments. Reyelts, who has been involved with hosting the event for 37 years, was once nipped in the rear by a pony - an event later captured in comic by artist Chris Monroe. Lee, who joined KBJR in 1990, remembered a particularly difficult parade day.
"It was so cold we couldn't talk," she said in the segment.
Lee, who anchors at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. and in the past also produced the late evening news, will have her last on-air appearance on Dec. 27.
She started her television news career in Duluth in 1983 after working in radio for several years. She started at KDLH-TV before moving to the NBC affiliate. Lee is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, a member of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Silver Circle Honors Society, and a Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame inductee.
"It's a really hard transition to make after being in this business since 1977," she said. "That's all I've known in my adult life."
Lee doesn't have an immediate post-journalism plan, she said, but she would like to sleep late, go to the gym, write, and get more into Ojibwe-style applique beadwork.
"I'm just going to be entertaining adventure and other opportunities," she said. "I haven't really examined all of the options. As I told someone the other day, 'Journalists never retire, they just stop asking questions.' "
Reyelts is an award-winning investigative journalist who started her career as an intern at KBJR in 1979 - during the same period she tested and passed on working in newspapers and radio - and has been news director since 2008.
Among her honors: She won the Silver Circle Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2006, and in 2011 she was inducted in the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
After retirement, she plans to spend more time with her family.
"I have five grandchildren," Reyelts said. "I expect and hope to be spending more time with them and helping our kids out when they need child-care help. For me, that would be a labor of love."
Reyelts said she also wants to get more involved with local organizations like the United Way - she's on the board of directors.
Like Lee, Reyelts plans to keep writing. She's working on a story she described as fictional and fun.
Both journalists carry a lot of institutional knowledge, said David Jensch, vice president and station manager at KBJR. They work opposite schedules, so one is usually around to answer questions from younger reporters.
"For the people in the newsroom to be able to turn and shout to one or the other of them, 'Hey, do you remember when ...' " he said. "They fill in the blank."
In addition to Jensch, other relative longtimers at the station include Kevin Jacobsen, assistant news director, and CBS 3 anchor Edward Moody, who started his career in Duluth in the 1990s and returned in April after eight years in larger markets.
"It's not like we're devoid of grey hair in the building," Jensch said.
Morning anchor Jennifer Austin will replace Lee as co-anchor with Dan Wolfe on KBJR at 6.
Friday afternoon was a weird one, Reyelts said. The television station fielded phone calls about whether the parade would go on despite high winds and an icy-snow mix. The parade hadn't been canceled in more than 50 years - and it had gone on in far worse weather, Reyelts said. There was also the looming announcement.
"It's kind of bittersweet," Reyelts said. "I love the parade, but it's time for me to hand it over to the new people."