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Christmas in Dodge

Bemrich and Santa brighten downtown with festive lights

Santa Claus, played by Tom Bethke, reacts after turning the Christmas lights on at the Gazebo at City Square Park on Saturday. Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich stands at right.

Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich is a pretty popular guy. But even he can’t compete with Jolly Old Saint Nick.

“Where’s Santa?” a group of children asked the mayor Saturday at City Square Park. “He’ll be coming,” Bemrich said. Not long after that, Santa Claus himself strolled across the park on his way to plugging in the Gazebo Christmas lights for the season. “Santa!” the children exclaimed.

Raylan Mashburn, 5, of Fort Dodge, is greeted by Santa Claus Saturday at City Square Park. Jolly Old Saint Nick traveled to Fort Dodge from the North Pole to turn on the Christmas lights.

Temperatures near 50 degrees Fahrenheit were a breath of fresh air for Santa, who is used to much colder weather in the North Pole. Santa waved and greeted the children with a smile while Kris Patrick, director of Main Street Fort Dodge, passed out candy canes. Not everyone was a Santa fan, though. One child cried at the very sight of the plump old man dressed in red and white. But Santa was undeterred as he graciously accepted hugs from several other children who were happy to see him. On a more serious note, Bemrich thanked those who attended the brief ceremony and spent some time in Fort Dodge for Small Business Saturday.

The Grinch (aka Ethan Becker) also made an appearance at City Square Park offering chocolate to guests. Although the green character has a reputation for being mean, this version of the Grinch was quite friendly. “We hope you made your way into some stores downtown to support small businesses,” Bemrich said. Bemrich also thanked Santa for coming all the way to Fort Dodge for a couple of hours. Following the lighting ceremony, Shimkat Motor Co. provided Santa’s transportation. He was driven down to the Dariette, 1242 Second Ave. S. While there he lit up the towering evergreen tree in Veterans Park. Just as Santa was departing, a mean green-looking fella rolled up to City Square Park. Some families missed the opportunity to see Santa at the park, so the Grinch became the next best thing.

Santa waves to the many children who gathered at City Square Park on Saturday to see him light up the downtown with Christmas lights. Acting as Santa for the event was Tom Bethke. “Come on you guys, get a picture with the Grinch,” one mom said. The Grinch, while a bit eccentric, did offer kisses to the spectators — Hershey’s Kisses that is. If children didn’t get their sugar fix there, they were offered a free ice cream cone as they went through the Dariette drive-thru to see Santa. After Santa spread as much cheer as he could, he snapped his fingers and was gone out of sight. But before he left, witnesses reported hearing him exclaim, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”

The Grinch poses at City Square Park on Saturday. REPRINTED FROM THE FORT DODGE MESSENGER

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