Thanksgiving Weekend Ideas: the 15th Annual “Festival of Lights.”

Halloween has only just ended, and already, the mistletoe, the red-berried wreaths, the garlands, and the sparkling snowflake displays have begun to materialize—and it seems as if they’ve appeared overnight. Welcome to “holiday season” in downtown Rapid City, SD—it begins on November 1st and ends with the New Year.

However, Main Street’s festive adornments may be a bit ahead of schedule. The average American household typically takes Thanksgiving’s four-day weekend as an opportunity to spend some time trimming trees, hanging wreaths, and most importantly—creating magical, blinking displays across the façade of their homes, taking special measures to rival the decorative efforts of their neighbors. Let’s face it: the tradition of covering your home with Christmas lights is one-part aesthetics, and one-part competitive spirit.

Thanksgiving weekend in downtown Rapid City, SD hits its stride in the scramble for Christmas-light fun with the “Festival of Lights,” an annual parade of blinking floats and sparkling holiday scenes. Communities across the country boast a long list of holiday parades that take place throughout the year, and the “Festival of Lights” holds a candle high with its own unique, hometown touch. Rapid City’s own parade consistently takes place on the last Saturday of November, chasing closely behind in the holiday marathon led by Turkey Day and Black Friday. The line-up of festive events that fill the end of November is complimented by a race down Main Street for one of many annual “Festival of Lights” titles.

If you’re in town for the long weekend, you can get your fill of holiday fun and round out your family entertainment ideas for Thanksgiving weekend by attending this Christmas-themed, wintertime parade that has become a favored tradition for local families in the years since its inaugural showcase in 1997. Today, local businesses, community organizations, and nonprofit groups dominate the string of competing floats that parade down Main Street in celebration of the Christmas spirit.

The best floats come with applicable themes. In 2008, Reptile Gardens presented its “Jingle in the Jungle” themed display to match the wild, reptilian atmosphere of its well-known Black Hills attraction.

Another year featured a twinkling, light-covered B1 Bomber from Ellsworth Air Force Base. “Festival of Lights” registrants are awarded in categories such as “Sounds of the Season” for the best use of music, “Creative Sparkle” for the most original theme, “Jinx Award” for the float that fails magnificently, and many more!

Year after year, local participants pull out the stops to craft winning masterpieces and create a sensation for patrons who brave the cold to enjoy the show. On average, the annual “Festival of Lights” event turns out nearly 30,000 spectators who line the sidewalks with thermoses of hot chocolate to take in the glittering scene.

The 2012 “Festival of Lights” is scheduled for Saturday, November 24th—the show begins at 6 PM on Main Street. If you plan to spend this year’s Thanksgiving holiday in the Rapid City area – if you’re looking for Thanksgiving weekend ideas to entertain the whole family – then plan to start the Christmas season off with the 15th Annual “Festival of Lights” in downtown Rapid City, SD.

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