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Santa Claus lights up the town

A big crowd gathers around Santa Claus, filling Second Street, after his arrival in downtown Hudson Friday night. Santa turned on the city's new LED holiday lights with a wave of his staff. Photo by Randy Hanson

The Christmas season got off to a big start Friday evening with Santa Claus' traditional pre-holiday visit to downtown Hudson.

The jolly old elf turned on the Christmas lights with a wave of his wand and listened to dozens of children's wish lists. After about 45 minutes on the street, he entered Kelley Frame and Fine Art Gallery for more formal visits with children.

Santa himself, who has been making pre-Christmas visits to Hudson for 29 years, estimated the crowd that greeted him at 1,000 people, according to Barb Kelley of Kelley Gallery, organizer of the "Light Up Night."

"It always turns out to be a great event. It's a lot of fun," said Kelley, who four years ago brought Light Up Night back after a lapse of a few years. The event has been a Hudson tradition for 20 or more years, she said.

Kelley recruits business sponsors each year to cover the expense of bringing Santa and his horse-drawn sleigh to Hudson. This year's sponsors were Bartholomew & Miller Law Office, Burt Nordstrand Associates, Gavic Construction, Kelley Gallery, Lavender Thymes, Marnie Marie Photography and Sletten & Brettin Orthodontics.

Many downtown businesses contributed to the event by staying open late and serving hot drinks and treats to customers, Kelley said.

Her brother, wildlife artist Rick Kelley, painted designs on children's faces at Kelley Gallery.

This year, the city Public Works Department hung new LED (light-emitting diode) lights on the street decorations and boulevard trees.

Public Works and Parks Director Tom Zeuli said the new 0.46-watt bulbs will give the city considerable energy savings. The old bulbs were seven-watt.

Zeuli said the new lights were purchased with city money set aside for achieving energy savings.

The city's lodging tax provided $6,000 for holiday lighting this year. In 2010, the amount will be reduced to $5,000.

The holiday events in downtown Hudson continue this weekend.

The streets will be aglow with luminary candles from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday for the annual Candlelight Stroll. The event also will feature carolers from Hudson High School and St. Patrick School, carriage rides, festively decorated shops and restaurants, and bell choir performances at The Phipps Center for the Arts.

The annual Reindeer in the Park event is Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. in Lakefront Park. Santa will be back in town, this time with real reindeer.

Visitors will be invited take a ride on a horse-drawn wagon and a children's activity tent will offer make-and-take crafts, nature programs and treats.

Santa will be visiting with children at Kelley Gallery from 1 to 5 p.m. on Dec. 6, 12, 13, 19 and 20. Marnie Marie Photography will be on hand to offer its services.

See page 7A of the Dec. 3 print edition or the attached Photo Gallery for more photos of the Light Up Night event.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

(715) 426-1066