After more than a year and a half of what can only be described as tumultuous for small business owners, shopping small and local has never been more important.

The members of Brainerd’s Destination Downtown Business Coalition recognize that fact and are doing everything in their power this holiday season to make sure the rest of the community understands their plight as well.

“Most of all, you’re really directly supporting people who live in this community and who work here and who socialize here,” Rylie Weber, board member of the downtown business coalition said during a phone interview Tuesday, Nov. 23, of shopping downtown.

And if the idea of supporting friends and neighbors isn’t enough to entice local shopping, perhaps the slew of special downtown holiday events are.

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Festivities kick off Saturday, Nov. 27, with Small Business Saturday and the weeklong Hometown Holidays event culminating with the lighting of the city hall Christmas tree at 5 p.m. Dec. 3. Santa will be downtown at 11 a.m. Saturday, and there will be live reindeer on the streets from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Firepits and fixings for s’mores will be at each corner of the Laurel Street and South Seventh Street intersection for shoppers to take a break and warm up.

Saturday also begins the downtown passport promotion, with 21 stores participating and offering customers a chance to win one of 10 gift certificate packages valued at $100 each.

“We have some really unique shops. We have some really unique restaurants and coffee bars and activities to do downtown,” Weber said. “I mean, people don’t know that some of these places exist, so what better time than the holidays to come out and discover a new favorite place?”

After the tree lighting Dec. 3 is the third annual Downtown Window Walk from 5-7 p.m., with businesses open late with their decorated windows that shoppers can admire and vote on.

Santa’s Workshop will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 4, 11 and 18, at 614 Front St. Kids can meet and take pictures with Santa, write him letters and participate in crafts like decorating cookies and ornaments.

For more information on downtown holiday events, visit facebook.com/brainerddowntown or downtownbrainerd.org/.

“We just want people to remember that we’re here because it is so easy to stay at home and click and shop off your computer. And I’m guilty — everybody’s guilty of it,” Weber said. “But the thrill you get, the fun you have just actually, physically going downtown and going into a shop, it just can’t be matched. So we really hope people will remember that for the holidays.”

Area events this weekend

Nisswa City of Lights

The Nisswa Chamber of Commerce’s 2021 Holiday Shopping Campaign buttons are on sale for $5 at the chamber, with deals beginning Friday, Nov. 26.

Forty-four businesses in Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Crosslake, East Gull Lake, Lake Shore, Pine River, Baxter and Brainerd are offering special holiday discounts with the buttons. For a full list of deals, visit bit.ly/CityOfLights21 or see the chamber of commerce’s Facebook page.

Activities for this year’s City of Lights on Nov. 26 include food vendors on main street, bonfires along the Paul Bunyan Trail, Santa letter writing at the chamber office, horse-drawn wagon rides, Polar Express storytelling, Santa photos in Nisswa Square, s’mores at Up North Bike Rentals, a gingerbread parade at Woods to Water Real Estate, the Holiday Brass Band at Stonehouse Coffee, hot chocolate in the Pioneer Village, arts and crafts, a live Nativity scene, caroling, a visit from Santa and fireworks beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the Nisswa Community Center.

For a full list of events, visit bit.ly/CityOfLights2021.

Aitkin’s ‘World Famous’ Fish House Parade

Aitkin’s “World Famous” Fish House Parade is 1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 26, in downtown Aitkin. The annual event is in its 30th year (last year’s event was canceled due to COVID-19) and is hosted by the Aitkin Area Chamber of Commerce. The parade starts at the Aitkin County Fairgrounds, travels south on Minnesota Avenue North and ends at First Street Northwest (turn right by the post office). Line-up starts at 9 a.m. A line-up number will be issued to participants upon arrival.

Floats will be judged and prizes will be given for three categories: Wackiest Fish House, Most Energetic and Best Kids Float.

There is still time to enter a fish house-themed float or help sponsor the family-friendly event. Contact the Aitkin Area Chamber of Commerce at 218-927-2316 or go to www.aitkin.com for more information or to register.

Other Aitkin events include:

FISH HOUSE 5K

The annual Fish House 5K Run and Walk will take place at 10 a.m. and will serve as the official kickoff to the day’s festivities. This event can be in-person or virtual.

The 5K course follows the Aitkin walking trail and begins and ends in downtown Aitkin.

JAQUES ART CENTER

The Jaques will serve doughnuts and cider after the Fish House parade. Performing will be YoYo Mamas and Papa. The Christmas Marketplace features local and regional art and giftable items for sale.

SANTA

Returning this year is Santa Claus. People can visit with Santa at the Butler Building warming house (warm up and shop artisan and other vendors at the indoor market).

VINTAGE SNOWMOBILES

Starting at 10 a.m., there will be a vintage snowmobile display near Block North Brew Pub.

SIP N’ STROLL

Happening again this year will be the sip n’ stroll starting at 11 a.m. with Block North Brew Pub, The Moose, the Aitkin American Legion and Riverside Pub.

Kringle Market returns to Crossing Arts

Shop a selection of local artist-created art and fine craft, art supplies, holiday gifts and more with the annual Kringle Market at the Crossing Arts Alliance in downtown Brainerd at 711 Laurel St.

The Kringle Market will run through Dec. 24 with normal hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays, with the exception of Dec. 24, which is 10 a.m. to noon.

For more information, contact Crossing Arts at 218-833-0416 or email info@crossingarts.org.

Sertoma Winter Wonderland

At the Northland Arboretum, 14260 Conservation Drive, Baxter, folks can experience Christmas lights in the drive-thru format of Sertoma Winter Wonderland.

The holiday tradition includes a driving tour of more than 75 colorfully animated lit displays.

For more information, visit sertomawinterwonderland.com.

The schedule is 5:30-8:30 p.m. beginning Thursday, Nov. 25, through Nov. 27; and then Dec. 1-4, Dec. 8-11, Dec. 15-18, and Dec. 22-31.



THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.