Jun 27, 2024 | By: Matthew Freeman

Bemidji’s ‘First City of Lights’ Foundation Unveils Record-Breaking Christmas Display

The Bemidji First City of Lights Foundation is known for showcasing some of the most unique and ambitious Christmas displays each winter. This year will be no different, as “Captain Christmas” himself, Josh Peterson, unveiled what’s in store for this upcoming Christmas season.

In case you haven’t been through Bemidji during the Christmas season, the First City of Lights Foundation” is known for lighting up the downtown area with tons of lights, and it always has a special project for one specific display, including last year when they displayed the 58-and-a-half foot tell Paul Bunyan Pixel Christmas Tree. This year, however, there are plans to add more than just one innovative display.

“This is also a year of change for the First City of Lights,” said Peterson, the First City of Lights Foundation’s Executive Director, the unveiling event on Tuesday. “For the first time ever, the entire park of Library and Paul Bunyan parks will both be illuminated in all LED lights for the first time ever that will be reused, so no more cutting lights out of the trees, all 100% LED lights that will be reused over the coming years. So that is an exciting addition and an opportunity for us to do what’s right sustainability wise, but also just to make Bemidji a brighter and better place overall.”

On June 25th, also known as National Leon Day, which marks the official halfway point to Christmas, the Foundation revealed what will be their big display for this upcoming Christmas season.

The Greatest Gift, a larger-than-life giftbox will be a 20-foot-by-20-foot-by-30-foot immersive, walk-through, illuminated digital display. It will also be the first display that is locally built through a new partnership with Bemidji Steel Company and Light Up the Night Productions.

“We’re proud to be bringing that business to Bemidji Steel and hopefully an ongoing partnership that will be ongoing for many years to come with light Up the Night Productions,” added Peterson.

This display will be situated on the north side of the Tourist Information Center, where it will showcase 14,000 pixels and feature 16-foot doorways. The bow alone, on top of the gift, will be at least 10 feet long.

“So this display is actually the largest of its kind in the world, according to Light Up the Night Productions,” explained Peterson. “Last year we had the addition of the LED pixel tree, which was the largest of its kind in the Midwest, and so we took the idea of using pixels that are programmable, but to also add that with something that’s immersive. Last year we added the Giving Ornaments of Dreams courtesy of Hill’s Plumbing and Heating, and that was an experience where people actually got to go into a display. While taking the combination of both, what we have with the pixel tree and with what we had developed with the Giving Ornament[s of] Dreams, this is something on a world-class scale that we’re going to be announcing.”

The estimated 850,000 lights will be illuminated during the 28th annual First City of Lights Night We Light Celebration on Friday, November 29th.

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