Rob Hillesland Summit-Tribune
Forest City successfully returned to a full-fledged traditional Christmas celebration on December 11 after an innovative but more limited Christmas cruise and parade last year due to COVID-19.
“This year we are back to the Forest City Christmas that people here were used to in the past,” said Norma Hertzer, executive director of the Forest City Chamber of Commerce. She cited a free holiday movie with Santa and Mrs. Claus greeting the kids in the Forest Theater lobby afterwards, Santa’s house at Ay Jalisco Mexican restaurant with free chili and hot chocolate for all, turkey bowling on Clark Street, decorating holiday cookies and children’s crafts, and horse-drawn wagon rides through the city center.
Hertzer said local Boy Scouts, who oversaw the turkey bowling alley, quickly handed out 70 House-offered prizes. She said the same happened with a cookie decorating contest downstairs at Hometown Creations, where a number of holiday crafts for kids had been held.
“They used them all right away,” Hertzer said. “We weren’t expecting so many people, but it’s good.
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The top three winners of the second annual window decoration competition were member and champion of the Forest City Chamber Print Transformations of Cedar Falls (which decorated the old Summit building), finalist Missal Insurance and Realty and third winner Edward Jones (financial advisor Amy Frakes Ryan.
“Last year was the first year for window decoration, which we continued because it was so successful last year,” Hertzer said. “During the COVID year, we felt we needed something like this to bring joy to people. It turned out to be a good idea. We arranged for some people to use another storefront space. It was great to see something so alive around the corner of the old Summit building. The warm look of Missal Insurance was also popular. Craig’s auto repair service has also been mentioned several times for its creativity.
Hertzer said the auto repair shop window showed wheels decorated with Christmas lights and about 15 companies entered the sophomore competition. She had two members of the House and about four randomly selected event attendees who worked as judges for the window decoration.
Turkey bowling did not award a spot to the winners, but did perform well on a cone-shaped main street that saw well-traveled sidewalks and open shops.
“We are doing this for the Boy Scouts,” said Michael McCloskey of Forest City. “We have hours of service and that also helps us with our summer camps and other activities. “
He was helping Forest City’s Ethan Dyslin and Gabe Ramirez reset the pins while giving directions to the young bowlers. One of those bowlers was Nyal Monson, 9, of Clear Lake, who said he “came with Grandma Val Monson” and that “it’s so much fun. Grandmother Val is the Assistant City Clerk of Forest City.
Keith Kyle of the Buffalo Center was helping Thompson-native horse-drawn wagon driver Eugene Thompson of Kiester, Minn., Prepare two tall black Percherons for rides. He said Thompson worked with Carroll Carson at least nine years ago to start providing the rides at the Forest City Christmas event, and has done so since. One of the horses is 18 and a longtime Forest City Christmas veteran. Kyle said horses can easily live into their twenties with proper care and good health.
In the basement of Hometown Creations, people were decorating cookies and making crafts. This additional retail space is part of the 2022 merger of Michelle Schluter’s two businesses to form Rejuvenate in February of next year. Its other activity, located at the back of the ground floor of the store, is the rejuvenation of the body and the skin. It has been around for about six years and in other places before. Hometown creations opened under new ownership in February 2021.
“We helped these kids with activities two years ago for Christmas in the old Hansen building (hardware store) and had the space this year,” Schluter said of the crafts and cookie decorating at the basement. “It used to be a kind of workspace, but we grow and we expand. We will start using it for more product space after the new year.
Jamie Burkholder used to help parents and kids decorate holiday cookies when they frosted and added sprinkles to their sugar cookies in the basement. Autumn Petersen of the Forest City Chamber, wearing a Christmas hat and fairy lights, was taking photos and seeing how well events were going. She said Hertzer helped organize the use of the lower level of Hometown Creations with Schluter, noting how well it worked for activities on a cold winter day.
Salvation Army bell ringers Dan Davis and Jamie Kite greeted guests on Clark Street in front of the quilted forest. Their rosy cheeks indicated that they spent most of the afternoon bringing holiday cheer and seeking donations.
“Our local extension for the Salvation Army in Forest City and Winnebago County makes it Black Friday on Christmas Eve,” Davis said. “We have bell ringers at Hy-Vee and Dollar General and we are doing it at David’s Foods in Lake Mills for the first time this year.”
Davis said the Forest City and Winnebago County Salvation Army Service Extension is affiliated with the Salvation Army national and international organization, but helps residents in need.
“Everything that we raise stays here in the area, with the locals,” Davis said. “We’ve had instances where we’re helping people in Lake Mills, so we started going there as well.”
The weather cleared up after a six-inch snowfall the night before this year’s Forest City Christmas event, which Hertzer said was okay and added a holiday feel. Christmas arrived early.
“It was cold, but there was no wind and the sun was shining,” Hertzer said. “The weather was magnificent.”
Rob Hillesland is the community editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534, or by email at [email protected]