The warmth of the fire from three glowing bonfire pits drew dozens of families together on Saturday night for outdoor winter fun at Boulevard Plaza.
A 40-foot tall pine tree on the west side of the Coon Rapids Ice Center was the centerpiece for first Coon Rapids Community Tree Lighting Festival. There was a host of community volunteers, many working behind the scenes, who supported the celebration, along with free cookies and cocoa.
Santa Claus arrived on time, courtesy of the Coon Rapids Fire Department. Young families quickly formed a long line to get a photo of their children with Jolly Saint Nick, inside Rocky's Santa Den.
Jake Couch and his family volunteered to build the holiday decorated, three-sided den for Santa in just five days.
"I think it really turned out nice,” Couch said. “It was something really cool to do for the community, and for everyone to enjoy."
Just before 6 pm, Coon Rapids Mayor Jerry Koch took the stage and welcomed everyone.
"Thank you all for coming out for the very first tree lighting," Koch said. The mayor quickly thanked the many sponsors of the event, including the Coon Rapids Community Strength Foundation. And when it was time, the crowd joined in for the countdown to the tree lighting.
The darkness was suddenly illuminated by 10,000 shining colored lights. The Raven Street Project chorus from Coon Rapids High School sang “The 12 Days of Christmas” to cap off the night.
The lighted tree will remain on in the evenings through the new year.