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Chinook comes together to start the Christmas season


December 2, 2019

Havre Daily News/Jack Lambert

A float travels down Third Street in the snow Saturday in Chinook during the Parade of Lights.

Snow gently fell as hundreds of people gathered to watch the Parade of Lights Friday, Chinook's annual Christmas parade, getting many people into the spirit of the holidays.

"It just brings everybody together, it's great. We actually see people that you see only once or twice a year, but they all come out on this night," Nancy Diemert said. 

Events were held throughout Chinook Friday, with the parade an annual highlight of the day.

Chinook's Festival of Trees and Parade of Lights is a longstanding tradition, and, although the snow fall posed some challenges, the event went well, Chinook Area Chamber of Commerce President Daniel Dahl said. He added that because of the weather conditions they were unable to fully close Indiana Street, but everything still went well.

Dahl said the Chamber tried to keep things simple this year and did not change the event very much from last year. Everyone had a good time, he said, and, other than the snow, things went very well. The vendors this year did very well compared to last year, and a large number of people went to the Blaine County Museum to see Santa Claus, he added.

The Chamber had a punch card system for the Christmas Stroll to encourage local shopping, although because of the weather conditions not many people made it to every business, he said.

He said his favorite part of the day is the parade. All of the activities throughout the day are great, but the parade is something special.

"Tradition is important," Dahl said. "Traditions change, but if we can keep these small traditions going, it just brings back why we live here." 

"It helps us be together as a community," he added.

Diemert and her husband, Kelcey, have owned Chinook Pharmacy for the past 25 years, and have previously been officers for the Chamber of Commerce.

Kelcey Diemert said the Chamber puts in a lot of hard work into organizing the event every year, and it is good to see so many younger people involved. 

"It's challenging to keep people in town," he said, but the Parade of Lights is a great way of getting everyone out and together for the holiday season.

Nancy Diemert said the climax of the day is the parade and she is always excited to see what ideas people will have for the floats. She added that she was in charge of the parade for 15 years and one of the hardest things about organizing it is getting people interested in making their own floats. Throughout the years, the parade has had a number of new floats as well as many of the same organizations or businesses making floats every year, she said.

"It's just a fun day in Chinook," Nancy Diemert said.

One of her favorite floats that her and her husband made in the past was a "Blue Christmas" float, she said. Her husband dressed up as Elvis Presley and she dressed up as Priscilla Presley, with her husband lip synced to "Blue Christmas" during the parade.

Sierra Swank said the parade is also something that is special for her and her family. She said she grew up in Chinook, but has moved to Bozeman to attend college at Montana State University. She added that she is happy to be home for the holidays and happy to be back with her family.

Every year, except this year, she said, her family has done a float for the parade, and some of her favorite family memories are of her family and friends making the floats. One of her favorite floats her family made had a homemade ice rink and carousal. But this year, she was able to watch the parade rather than being in it, she added.

"It's kind of fun to actually watch the parade," she said.

She said her favorite holiday is Christmas, and she loved to see everyone in the community come together and get into the holiday spirit. 

"I love Christmas," she said.

Brady Bowls of Harlem was at the event with his two children, Connor, 7, and Sidney, 9, to watch the parade and help with the 4-H tree sale at the fairgrounds. He said they have gone to the Parade of Lights for a number of years and always enjoy it. He added that it was also encouraging to see so many people come out to the event despite the cold and snow. 

Both of his children agreed that their favorite part of the Parade of Lights is the lights hung up around town. They added that they would want to come back next year and were very excited for Christmas.

Brady Bowls said the parade is a great part of the community and it is nice that people are willing to make floats every year for the parade.

Stewart MacKenzie, owner of MacKenzie's Antiques, said he has lived in the Chinook community for the past 40 years, raising his family in town. He said he has recently gotten back in town, just in time for the festival, after spending a few months in the hospital. He said raising his family in Chinook was a great experience and having events like the Parade of Lights is one of the reasons the community is so closely knit together.

"It was the best move I've ever made, moving to Chinook," he said. 

He added that the parade brings people from town or around the community to Chinook and people do a great job every year organizing and building floats.

The holidays are about people coming together and spending time with one another, he said. His favorite part of the holidays this year is that his four children and eight grandchildren will be joining him for Christmas, he added.

"That's my favorite Christmas deal," MacKenzie said.

Havre Daily News/Jack Lambert

Dahl said he was glad so many people made floats this year and he thought that everyone had a good time at the event. He added that after Thanksgiving and Black Friday people are in a good mood and starting to get in the holiday spirit.

"It makes me happy," he said. "... It helps us be together as a community."

He said Chinook has a number of things throughout the year for the community, such as the Chinook Thanksgiving Dinner, which is organized by the Chinook Senior Center every Thanksgiving. 

He quoted Bill Murray's character Frank Cross from at the end of the movie "Scrooged."

"For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be."


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