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'A very important thing we have' -- Parade of Lights dazzles with cinematic Christmas floats

Dickinson's finest qualities were all alight last Saturday as the Parade of Lights returned in style. (Iain Woessner / The Dickinson Press)1 / 3
Yippee ki-yay! The Rock Bar made a thrilling showing with a "Die Hard" inspired Parade of Lights float on Saturday. (Iain Woessner / The Dickinson Press)2 / 3
It's just not Christmas without Charlie Brown as evidenced by the Real Estate Company's festive float. (Iain Woesner / The Dickinson Press)3 / 3

The Parade of Lights dazzled children of all ages and more than a few adults as well last Saturday, providing a festive celebration of classical Christmas movies and more than a little community pride.

"People put so much time into the floats, it's amazing. When it comes to community, this town steps up," Tori Barnum, owner of the Rock Bar in Dickinson and the mastermind behind this year and last year's Parade of Lights, said in a phone interview. "It was so worth it. It's not worth it for my business, it's not worth it for downtown, it's worth it for the entire community of Dickinson. I think it's a very important thing we have."

Barnum found himself unexpectedly at the helm of the Parade of Lights last year, being an active member of the Dickinson Downtown Association. Last year's DDA didn't have an executive director, and Barnum said it was due to the enthusiasm of his employees that he took charge of the undertaking.

"I took it on last year—we didn't have an executive director for the DDA last year. It was just kind of small groups that got together to do things. I brought it up to my employees and they got all excited. They were going to do a float. I went back to the next meeting and ... nobody had figured out anything about it," Barnum recalled. "I was like 'well, crap. I already got my employees excited, so I'm apparently going to just run with it.'"

This year, Barnum had more time and more resources to work with, but some surprising challenges remained.

"This year was a little different. We combined everything, we have a DDA board. We have committees that are all put together. We had Jennifer (Strange) as the executive director. But then she left, so we were back to square one," Barnum said, which once more thrust him into the leading role. "It pretty much consumed my life."

Fortunately, the local businesses and community stepped up to assist.

"Charbonneau ended up sponsoring it, so that helped with the finances of it. Basically I cold-called as many businesses as I could, we went on the radio, put an ad in the paper," Barnum said. "I emailed everybody who was in it last year. I called as many businesses I could think of. I had a few friends in the community that I had sharing the information ... people just continued to call me, so with all the spam phone calls coming around these days I had to answer everything."

The Rock's contribution to the parade was a show-stealing, smoking float based around the classic Christmas movie "Die Hard" ... a possibly controversial choice, and one the Rock's staff rallied behind.

"There was kind of a double reasoning for the choice of 'Die Hard.' The first reason was, we had a vote with all the employees who were working on a float and it won unanimously," Barnum said. "The second reason, personally, I thought—what better reason to get people talking about the Rock then with a debatable Christmas movie?"

Classic Christmas movies were the theme of the parade, and more traditional classics—such as "A Charlie Brown Christmas"—joined fire trucks and dancing elves, creating a festive tableau that brightened up a dark and frosty Saturday night.

"I would be glad to do it (next year). We did get another executive director hired; she starts in January," Barnum said. "I will do whatever the DDA deems is appropriate. If I'm able to help with it or run it, I'm game. I think it needs to keep going."