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Christmas in North Dakota!
Bundle up and head out to sample the joys, tastes and sounds of Christmas all across North Dakota. Here are a few ideas for getting in the spirit of the season!

  • Holiday Train
  • Knife River Choral
  • West Acres
  • Dakota Square
  • Dickens Festival

Holiday Train making five stops here

The Canadian Pacific (CP) Holiday Train kicks off the Christmas season over thousands of miles of the northern United States and Canada.

The bright, colorful CP Holiday Train travels across Canada and the United States raining money, food and awareness for food banks and hunger issues. On separate Canadian and American routes, the Holiday Train reaches more than 150 communities each year for a combined distance of nearly 6,000 miles.

Since 1999, the Holiday Train program has raised more than $6 million and about 2.6 million pounds of food for North American food banks. At each community where the Holiday Train stops, money and food donations are collected. The collections support charitable food efforts in each of those communities. CP also makes donations in many of these communities.

Each Holiday Train is about 1,000 feet in length with 14 brightly decorated rail cars, including a modified box car that has been turned into a traveling stage for performers. Each car is decorated with hundreds of thousands of technology-leading LED Christmas lights. Santa Claus rides the Holiday Train all along its route, passing out Christmas goodies to children in each community.
 In 2011, more than 20,000 candy canes were handed out to the kids at Holiday Train events. In the 13 years of the Holiday Train program, it is estimated over a quarter of a million candy canes have been given to children as treats. The Holiday Train also features top-flight musical acts which perform at each stop.
Here is the itinerary for the Holiday Train’s upcoming North Dakota stops:

• Hankinson – 7 p.m., American Legion parking lot, Main Street railroad crossing.
• Enderlin – 9:45 p.m., CP depot, 101 Harvest Lane.
• Harvey – 4:30 p.m., CP Depot, 600 Lincoln Ave.
• Minot – 7:30 p.m., Main Street railroad crossing
• Kenmare – 10 p.m., First Ave. S.W. and Central Ave., east side of railway tracks
CP advises that that scheduled stop times are approximate and subject to change. 

Knife River Chorale lifts Christmas hope

For Elda Baisch and many other Hazen, Beulah and area residents, Christmas revolves around the Knife River Chorale. Baisch has sung with the chorale all of its 55-year lifespan. She will be among the voices in the Chorale again this year, for its Dec. 15 and 16 performances in Hazen.

“We just love to spread the wonderful news of Christmas and the birth of Jesus through music,” Baisch says

The Knife River Chorale will present its 56th annual Christmas concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16, in the Hazen Elementary School gymnasium. The Chorale has a strong tradition of unifying local voices in the spiritual celebration of the season, through music.

“Our Knife River Chorale shares the true message of Christmas with our communities,” says Dan Pillar, an eight-year member. “We have a large variety of music that has been gathered throughout the years and we make it a point to select music that does in fact spread the message of Christmas,” he says. Pillar adds the Chorale also emphasizes inclusiveness and good cheer. “One of the things that's nice about this group is that there are no tryouts - it's an opportunity to get together and socialize with friends.”

Pillar says this year’s edition of the Chorale will consist of a group of close to 60 vocalists and musicians, including bell ringers. The vocal director is Mary Lou Aune, pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Beulah. The instrumental music is directed by Chris Harvey, Hazen High School band director. For the performances, the school gymnasium is decorated with sets, trees and floral arrangements that convey the Christmas message, as well. There is no admission charge, but a freewill offering of support is conducted during each performance.

Pillar, an employee of Dakota Gasification, resides in Hazen with his spouse and two daughters. He continues to be impressed with how the community, without hesitation, supports the Chorale’s Christmas concert year in and year out. “The group is very proud to provide this service to the community, it's really a dedicated group.”

Christmas Spirit thrives at West Acres
West Acres Shopping Center in Fargo has plenty of Christmas cheer and abundant shopping waiting for the many, many visitors it will host this month.

Alissa Sorum, marketing director for West Acres, on 13th Ave. S., says the mall expects to see an average of 30,000 visitors per day this month. That will be a part of the 7 million visitors Sorum says are projected to visit West Acres in 2012. Sorum says virtually all retail space at West Acres is currently occupied with retailers. "We are also full to capacity with specialty holiday carts and kiosks," she says. Sorum says the mall's “anchor” department stores (Macy's, Sears, jcpenney and Herberger’s) are doing well, and the center includes national chain stores as well as many that are locally owned.

Cass County Electric Cooperative serves West Acres Shopping Center.
West Acres kicked off the holiday shopping season this year on the Sunday night before Thanksgiving. The 14th annual “It's A Wonderful Night” event catered to after-hours mall shoppers, each gaining entry by buying a $5 admission ticket. Proceeds from the ticket sales go to local charitable organizations. Then, merchants opened their Thanksgiving weekend “Black Friday” doors at midnight. Santa Claus arrived at the mall that Friday and remains at West Acres to hear from youngsters through Dec. 24.

This month, Sorum says West Acres is hosting holiday performances through Dec. 14; this involves more than 60 musical and dance groups providing weekday performances, in the Fountain Court. The performances are part of West Acres' Regional Showcase Program.

Sorum says research indicates about 60 percent of West Acres visitors come from the Fargo-West Fargo-Moorhead communities. She adds that 25 percent of visitors come from more than 100 miles away, including Canada. According to Sorum, and industry studies, mall shopping has weathered the recent national recession and the ongoing flight of shoppers to online outlets.  

“We're confident that malls will always have a place,” Sorum says. “Malls, in general, have something that online shopping can’t offer customers, which is the experience. We work very hard to make sure that the experience for our customers is a positive one.” Sorum says West Acres is designed to host diners, walkers and people meeting and interacting. Displays from local artists add to the ambiance and comfort.

“Our mall is about more than just shopping – it is a social experience, a warm environment and a familiar place. You can’t get that online,” Sorum says.
Holiday schedules and other holiday season mall promotions are available at and

Happy holidays at Minot’s Dakota Square
Dakota Square Mall, Minot, is another major shopping center in the state and it will be rolling out the Christmas red carpet this year, too.

Santa Claus arrived at Dakota Square Mall early last month and will be available to hear from children through Christmas Eve. Visits with Santa at Dakota Square are available from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays; and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. Dakota Square Mall, with about 90 stores, is served by Verendrye Electric Cooperative.

One more Dickens Weekend
Take advantage of the Dec. 7 and 8 conclusion of the Dickens Village Festival, in Garrison. This year’s edition of the Dickens Festival, which started Thanksgiving weekend, is celebrating author Charles Dickens 200th birthday.

Entertainment each weekend offers a live rendition of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Sakakawea Area Council of the Arts actors hit the stage each evening at 7:30 p.m. Advance ticket information is available by phoning 800-799-4242.

Watch this small town turn into a treasure of entertainment, unique shopping and experiences at this all-volunteer, seven-day festival. Enjoy street food vendors, a craft show, house tour, an English tea, lighted street parade, unique shopping and ride on an authentic double-decker bus or on a horse-drawn carriage.

“The festival is celebrating its 19th year and each year we continue to add new and interesting twists,” according to Chairman Paul Schlichting.





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