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Winter wonderland to continue after Ronan lights parade

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People across Lake County worked together to light up the night at the Lake County Fairgrounds for the inaugural Lights Under the Big Sky extravaganza.

The event begins wrapping up this weekend after the 5:30 p.m. Ronan Parade of Lights on Friday, Dec. 15, with more activities until Sunday.

After paying a small entrance fee, people can walk through a maze of lights around the fairgrounds to see all kinds of displays. During last weekend’s events, Santa Claus sat in a rocking chair in a little house waiting to hear what children wanted for Christmas. He said many people attended the first weekend of the multi-weekend event, and he hopes they come back for the last week.

Lake County resident Liz Hipp attended with her husband and good friend. She said the lighting was beautiful.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said. 

Kristy Porter, 12, also walked around the grounds last weekend with her family to see the lights. She liked the Snoopy and gingerbread houses the best.

“My dad saw something about this on Facebook, and he wanted to come down and see what it was all about. It’s pretty cool,” she said.

Project Manager Sjaan Vincent said several groups and businesses in Lake County and the Flathead Indian Reservation worked together to create the event. 

She said the winter family fun developed out of the findings from an economic assessment reporting that all the communities in the county need to work together to create economic opportunities.   

“We really needed to do something for our valley and our communities in the winter time,” Vincent said. “We wanted to enhance what is already happening here and create winter time fun for the entire valley.”

The idea is to get all the communities across the county involved.

“Next year, it would be great if communities wanted to host an activity in each town,” she said. “We want to make this valley a destination, and the communities need to work together to create an experience for people that can become a yearly tradition.” 

Community members, businesses, and grants helped support this year’s event to create something for people from near and far to do.

“In the winter months, these towns tend to shut down so we need to do something to draw in commerce to help support these communities,” she said.

Vincent has a long list of people, programs, and businesses to thank for helping to make this year’s event happen. She said Lake County Commissioners were at the top of the list.

“It was very important to get their approval and support to make this happen because we are using the Lake County Fairgrounds,” she said.

Activities were set up along the walking path including a karaoke singing machine brought in by Bob Starkel of Polson. He said the event was a good way to bring the communities together.  

Boy Scouts with group 1940 were stationed at different fire pits around the event for people to stop and warm up along the way. The group included Jacob and Nicholas Dresen, Brent Lozeau, and Michael Koehler. 

In a room on the back of the community center, Ronan Library District volunteers hosted a craft event for kids with funding from the Washington Foundation. 

Tayvon Snell, 9, road his bike to the library’s project and asked Library Director Michelle Fenger if he could help with anything, and to his delight, he was given the task of handing out sugar cookies for kids to decorate. Several other kids volunteered to help people make decorations for themselves and the trees at the Lights Under the Big Sky event.

In another building, Ronan High School students with a club called Close Up were selling hot chocolate and other items to raise money for their trip to New York in April. Savanah Duell, 17, said club members are working hard to raise money for their project, and they are looking for jobs including putting up or taking down Christmas lights. “We are looking for things like yard work,” she said. People can call the school at 406-676-3390 ext. 7529 if they have any jobs for the kids.

Inside the Ronan Community Center, a Christmas Market was set up with fresh bread, jewelry, and other items. Polson Girl Scout Troop 3884 was also selling homemade goodies.

“We are a local eclectic fair of homemade and repurposed items,” said DeeAnn Richardson, market committee member. She added that the market will be open again along with the Lights Under the Big Sky event on the weekend starting Friday, Dec. 15. 


Schedule of events:


Friday, Dec. 15

5 p.m. Lights Under the Big Sky and Christmas Market opens

5:30 p.m. Ronan Parade of Lights begins on Main Street


Saturday, Dec 16

5 p.m. Lights Under the Big Sky and Christmas Market opens


Sunday, Dec. 17 (last day)

1 p.m. Light Under the Big Sky gates open and Christmas Market begins

2 p.m.- 5 p.m. Several activities are scheduled including kids’ games, Kathy Gillhouse presents her Children’s Choir, the Ronan Jazz Band will perform, and more

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