With a "5...4...3...2...1" countdown, the Christmas lights were flipped on in Owatonna's Central Park Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The lights feature some new displays and will remain on throughout the holiday season. Residents are encouraged to participate in a holiday cruise event on Friday, December 4 through downtown Owatonna.

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"My wife and I had the opportunity and chance to go to Vienna last December. And all around the downtown city of Vienna...they lit their trees this way and it made such an impression we brought it back. The plus side is, they're not tangled up in the trees. The lights will last a lot longer. It will give such a beautiful effect."

-Tom Brick, owner of Owatonna Shoe

Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce President (OACCT) Brad Meier said, "We're excited to celebrate the holidays here a little bit early...People just wanted the lights on and need a little cheer."

"There's been so many things that have been canceled. One of the things that's not going to get canceled in Christmas, what Santa Claus means and what Jesus means to us. One thing to bring that on is the lighting of the lights in Central Park."

-Owatonna Mayor Tom Kuntz

Cindy Stelter of Central Park Framing and Finds said, "We have new snowflakes on all of the light poles around Central Park on the west side across the street and on the east side across the street," in addition to the new lights in the trees and the decorations in the corners of the park. She said the previous lights and decorations were about 40 years old.

"My dad owned a small business in downtown Owatonna and I've lived here most of my life. I'm a very big supporter of Owatonna, as was he. I love seeing this park lit up."

-Lighting project contributor Sharon West

Meier spoke of the importance of this holiday season, "This is an important time for retail no matter what and in a year like this with COVID, your small independent retailers...It's just been a really challenging time. Really encouraging people to get out to those locally owned businesses...We've got a push out there, 'Shop safe. Shop Local.' Our businesses are doing just a great job doing the safety measures."

"Federated is just ecstatic to be involved in this. This is just such a fun, crazy time of year, Thanksgiving...Christmas...And we think about this time of year there is just so much to be thankful for...We really our in this together. Whether it's our downtown merchants or our merchants across the city, this is a great time to support each other."

-Mike Kerr, incoming CEO, Federated Insurance

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