With Bayfront Festival Park blinking brighter than a blinking beacon, like a Clark W. Griswold fever dream, few can try to claim Duluth is devoid of the Christmas spirit.
Nonetheless, the absence of the towering tree in the heart of our city, at the Minnesota Power Plaza, casts a curmudgeonly shadow over this holiday season. Ongoing plaza renovations prevented the utility from hosting the tree this year, something it had been doing for decades. With so much canceled by COVID-19 already this year, the announcement in November was another bulb dimming and another tradition cast aside by a year that has become a battle.
To its credit, Minnesota Power opted, in the tree’s absence, to donate $10,000 to brighten a trio of Duluth charities: CHUM, Life House, and Kids Closet, for a holiday meal at the warming shelter and for boots, coats, and other cold-weather gear for children and teens.
Also snuffed this early holiday season — in addition to Festival of Trees and other local favorite Christmas events and get-togethers — is the tastefully and thoroughly decorated Glensheen Mansion, its many lit trees and its invitation to search the historic estate for hidden elves always a treat.
Glensheen’s grounds, too, had become can’t miss, in particular with last year’s addition of the walk-through Park Point lighting extravaganza created by Marcia Hales. “Spirit of the Lights,”as it’s known, had been featured on national TV’s “Great Christmas Light Fight” show. Glensheen announced Nov. 19 its shutdown for four weeks in compliance with new guidelines from Gov. Tim Walz in the name of slowing the spread of the coronavirus. The good folks at Glensheen are trying to make the best of a stocking-coal situation by offering virtual tours and experiences at glensheen.org.
It’s not really the same, though. But what is these days?
What’s really needed are more Northlanders to join those in getting out and decorating and brightening their homes and businesses. This year especially, a little more light can be appreciated by all. It’s not too late to light up for December — to counter the darkest of a too-dark 2020.
The Greater Downtown Council’s Storefront Window Display and Lighting Contest winners are to be announced Dec. 14. The sixth-annual Christmas Lighting Challenge attracted more than 60 entries across Northeastern Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin, including best-of-the-best “masters” displays at 7249 Industrial Road in Saginaw, 4410 Vermilion Road in Duluth, and 2101 E. Third St. in Superior. Online voting is going on now at christmaslightingchallenge.com. And the Exhibition Drive Holiday Sound & Light Show in Duluth’s Piedmont Heights neighborhood is back this year flashing in time to the season’s best music.
There's plenty to see just driving around, safe from any transmission of the coronavirus — even without the Minnesota Plaza tree or Glensheen’s grounds. But there’d be more to see, more to brighten our season, on the way to the lights on Bayfront and along Exhibition Drive if more of us seize the Christmas spirit and shine a light in the face of all of this year’s darkness. Let’s do it for each other.