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WIld Mountain 12-8-13

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November 28, 2020

11/21/2020 2:52:00 PM
Lighting Festival won't look quite the same, but tradition of Royal Lady overcomes COVID

Thanks to the coronavirus, next week’s Taylors Falls Lighting Festival will have a different look from what we’ve come to expect over the last 30 years-- but organizers are betting there’s still quite a lot to cherish in the holiday decorations illuminating a river valley winter night, and in the community coming together for the parade.

Royal Lady, is one of the festival mainstays which is not bowing to covid-19. There’s been a recognition made annually of a woman who has promoted the town, through her positive energy, who has led the parade in Taylors Falls since 1989.

This year the honor goes to Eleanore Collins; who might normally be found volunteering behind the scenes as a chair of the Wassail Craft Fair in the old depot. Or, busying herself as a Historical Society member, producing one of the group’s festival events. This year she’ll don the Royal Lady red velvet cape and claim her seat in a vintage red and white convertible car, the first unit of the parade line-up. She plans to be accompanied by her daughter.

The illuminated evening parade 6 p.m. Friday night November 27 will be a flip-flopped affair. As part of a slew of new precautions to avoid the contagious covid-19; it’s the visitors who will be moving on the route. To view the parade people will be driving in their vehicles along mainstreet, from south to north, while parade units are parked curbside. Organizers want festival-parade goers to start off at the elementary school parking lot up the hill-- where you will get situated. Head down the hill, to Bench Street, turn north and enjoy the parade units spectacle, from the germ free environment of your own set of wheels.

Things to do in town are being impacted by the no gathering order and activities like a new skating rink on mainstreet are also contingent on weather. The state park is free to enter and explore Friday, however. The Saturday schedule of events includes (for now) a free movie night, in the city’s downtown lot, but be aware this could change. At press deadline the festival organizers still expected to be screening the vintage Grinch Who Stole Christmas and the classic Charlie Brown Christmas.

The collectible Lighting Festival ornament, as usual, is for sale at local shops. The theme for 2020 is “Simpler Times,” with tiny historical scenes of Taylors Falls wrapped all around the egg-shaped ornament. They sell for $12 and proceeds help fund the festival. Barb Young, who has organized Festival activities for decades, explains that the festival committee agreed the ornament “theme” Simpler Times, was especially appropriate during a global pandemic when everything is impacted by covid-19.

It can be reassuring to recall simpler times and basic holiday warm feelings. This year is Young’s final duty as Royal Lady supervisor, and the Taylors Falls’ Royal Lady from last year, Carol Schumann, has graciously accepted the responsibility for 2021.

And, Geri Aanonsen is also overseeing the Festival this year for the first time, full-time. It’s been a baptism by fire having to rework or replace events and activities due to the ever-evolving virus situation. The community will be able to adapt-- of that Royal Lady Eleanore Collins has no hesitation. Whatever needs to happen-- will happen in Taylors Falls. Churches get involved, the elementary school has its role to play, the business sector pitches in and volunteers come out of the woodwork. Collins says it’s always been like that. Having grown up in Taylors Falls, she knows.

Her family (she was a Swanson) lived in a number of houses in town and after Eleanore graduated from Taylors Falls School, she met her husband, Larry, at Osceola Beach. They married in 1958 and made their home on a stunning property that overlooks the St. Croix River, just downstream of Clark Island. Their son and daughter also attended Taylors Falls School. Larry, a college professor, died in 2015. A bed and breakfast that he and Eleanore operated on the river bluff, “The Cottage” was closed a couple years afterward, she said.

Years ago when there were historic house tours held as fundraisers, the Royal Lady of course opened hers. The Cottage not only made the river valley available to countless guests, but she and Larry also made a river valley fan out of an exchange student from Norway, who still keeps in touch. Interacting with patrons at the B & B was a delight, Eleanore shared. She and her husband got to share their appreciation for their life on the St. Croix, and in conversations with the guests this feeling was only reinforced.

People who came (to the B & B) were happier when they left than when they arrived, Eleanor mused. This Royal Lady has certainly witnessed much change in the town of Taylors Falls and its surroundings. She makes mention of recent solar panels and bike trails in the nearby fields, to growth in traffic-- so much traffic. She says, there were days when she and Larry would drive to the cities, where she attended college (earning her Art History degree when she was 60) and also worked as librarian in art resources. They’d remark to each other how nice it would be if they’d see another car once in a while, so it wouldn’t feel so deserted.

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WIld Mountain 12-8-13

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