Lake City holiday has that Hagadone pizazz

TUESDAY, DEC. 2, 2008

Christmas miracles really do come true, and here’s some holly jolly proof:

Santa hats off to Duane Hagadone!

Yep. That’s me giving a massive attaboy to my former employer, media magnate, bazillionaire and Grand Poobah of the North Idaho hospitality trade.

I know. This is a shock. Over the years I’ve been jaundiced in my assessment of Hagadone’s various schemes to use the Lake City as his own personal toy box. For example:

•I may have coined the term “Coeur d’Uane.”

•I have referred to the array of flowers outside his hotel as “Duaniums.”

•I wrote and recorded the unflattering “Duane B. Hagadone Blues.”

But that was then. Like ol’ Ebenezer Scrooge, I have been reborn.

And so I’ll just come out and say it: Hagadone deserves some thanks for what he has done for Coeur d’Alene’s holiday season.

Everybody leaves a mark on the world. It’s just that most of us use disappearing ink.

Hagadone, however, is a permanent marker kind of guy.

I realize I’m late to the party on all this. Last Friday kicked off the 22nd annual Coeur d’Alene Resort Holiday Lights Show, after all.

But my lovely wife, Sherry, and I had never before attended this much-ballyhooed extravaganza. So this year we booked a weekend getaway at the Resort.

On Friday night we endured the drizzly cold on Sherman Avenue and enjoyed the downtown-sponsored Coeur d’Alene Christmas parade.

What a welcome change. The last time I witnessed a march on Sherman was some years back. Richard Butler, North Idaho’s Hitler impersonator, staged one of his moronic, hate-filled white supremacy parades.

( Note: I realize Christmas is coming and we’re all supposed to love our fellow man. But don’t you get a warm and squishy feeling knowing that old racist is dead and rotting in the ground?)

The community Christmas parade was followed by some spirited caroling. After that came a few words from Hagadone’s son, Brad, and a royal fireworks blowout over the lake.

As that shock and awe subsided, about a million and a half lights winked on.

The Resort and its marathon boardwalk were suddenly ablaze with festive displays. There was enough power being consumed to make a coven of Avista executives swoon.

Soaking it all in made me recall this word Hagadone liked to use back in the Dark Ages when he paid my wages.


It’s the Hagadone business model. It’s about exceeding expectations. It’s about giving the buying public something to gawk and talk about.

The Holiday Lights Show certainly fits that bill.

But as spectacular as it all was, neither the Friday night lights nor the parade put me in that aforementioned holiday happy place. That came Saturday night when we took a boat ride to the North Pole to see Santa.

We almost skipped that part of our hotel weekend package. I’m glad we didn’t.

At the proper time, we boarded one of the Resort’s large passenger vessels. Then we powered across the cold, dark lake, closing in on a lighted North Pole sign that was set up not far from shore.

Zap. A giant tree lighted up like a rocket ship.

A suspended snow machine began blowing flakes into the night sky.

We were soon greeted by a real live Santa and Mrs. Claus who waved at the cruise passengers from their home in a brightly decorated boathouse.

Then Santa, through loudspeakers, read off the names of each and every youngster who was on our boat and the boat next to us.

( Sure, I could tell you that this was all done thanks to parents putting the names of their children on cruise registration forms. But why wreck the magic? )

“Is this the Good List?” asked a little girl who was braving the elements on the deck next to us near the boat’s railing.

Sherry leaned over and assured the tyke that, indeed, Santa was reading names from the Good List.

A moment or two later we heard a squeal.

“That’s my name,” she cried out. “That’s my name. That’s me!”

Her joy was contagious. For a moment I remembered how I felt when my parents took me downtown to stand outside Spokane’s grand Crescent department store. I stared with pop-eyed wonder at the motorized Christmas displays set up in the store’s windows.

But a boat ride to the North Pole to see Santa, who calls out your name?

That’s some kind of sizzle.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at

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