The Christmas Stroll turns 30

By: 
CHARLIE DENISON
Reporter
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Mary Kepler leads the First Presbyterian Church Bell Choir at the Lewistown Art Center during Christmas Stroll 2012.

File Photo 

 

 

This Friday is a special day for Lewistown, as it marks the 30th anniversary of the Christmas Stroll.

On Dec. 2, 1988, the Christmas Stroll kicked off, bringing “music, food and Christmas cheer,” according to an article in the News-Argus dated Nov. 20, 1988.

Main Street was blocked off for the event, which was sponsored by the Lewistown Area Chamber of Commerce, First National Bank, Norwest Bank, the News-Argus, CenMont Shopper and KXLO/KLCM radio.

The First Presbyterian Church bell choir, the Missouri River Jazz brass ensemble, the Yogo Sapphire Chapter of Sweet Adelines, and others, provided music, while food included Yogo yakitori and Lions Club chili.

“Goodwill was sure in abundance,” Stroll organizer Billie Hanzel said of the event in the Dec. 7, 1988 issue of the News-Argus.

“It was really nice to see the number of people who took part – the musicians, singers, those providing booths and the many people who came downtown to enjoy the Stroll,” 1988 Chamber President Dave Byerly said in the same article. 

“The crowd was way bigger than I expected,” added Dale Pfau, the 1988 Stroll Chairman. “It was one of the largest crowds I’ve ever seen in Lewistown.”

Pfau told the News-Argus in 1988 the goal of the Stroll was to kick off the [holiday] season with something “festive and fun,” and he believes this goal was accomplished.

Thirty years later, the stroll continues, keeping the same mission in mind. 

Pfau – now executive director at the Fergus County Council on Aging – said he has fond memories of those early Strolls.

“As the Stroll grew we added horse and buggies to the mix, and we also had children make flashlights,” Pfau said. “That was fun. One year the kids ran from the library to the Yogo with those flashlights…it was the charge of the light brigade.”

The Stroll has made some changes through the years – most significantly changing its date from the first Friday of December to the Friday after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) – but the Stroll keeps on, and community members continue to come out and participate in some small-town fun.

Pfau said he’s pleased to see that the spirit of the Stroll hasn’t left.

“I think it’s holding true,” he said. “It’s a way for people to come together during the holidays and enjoy a Central Montana Christmas. That’s the main thing.”

For the past 15 years, Chamber Director Connie Fry has worked to keep the Stroll spirit alive. She’s helped put together some new additions for the holiday-themed event while also sticking to the Stroll fundamentals. 

“A lot about the Stroll remains the same,” Fry said. “Downtown businesses will be open and some vendors will set up around Main Street. Hopefully we’ll have a few vendors at Pourman’s Café.”

Some of the newer ideas Fry and the Stroll committee have added include a drawing for $1,000 in Chamber bucks (which takes place at Pourman’s at 8 p.m. You have to be present to win), the Art Center cookie contest (drop-off takes place at 2 p.m. and judging starts at 3:30 p.m.) and the Elf Run.

“It’s a short, family-oriented run that’s just a little under three miles,” Fry said.

Registration for the Elf Run closes at 4:15 p.m. The run starts at 4:45 p.m.

“We finish running down Main Street right before the parade, which begins at 5:30 p.m.,” Fry said. 

The parade is a big draw, as are the fire pits set out along Main Street and live music from local musicians. This year’s musicians include Brian and Jeanette Priest, J.D. Moore, Terry “Yella Hand” Ernst and Chris Hildebrant.

But perhaps the biggest draw – especially for the children – is Santa Claus.

Santa will be taking present requests at the Lewistown Art Center. He will also make an appearance in the parade.

“Seeing Santa go down the street was always fun,” said City Manager Holly Phelps, a Lewistown native.

There is a little something for everybody at the Christmas Stroll.

“It’s just great to see the people coming downtown to socialize, shop and get in the Christmas spirit,” Fry said. “We hope to see you and – as is always the case –  we’re always looking for volunteers.”

For more information, call Fry at (406) 535-5436.

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