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Big display, wide following

CdA’s annual light show draws visitors from beyond region

Still fighting turkey-induced fatigue, thousands of people flocked to Coeur d’Alene on Friday to usher in the Christmas season with an event that has become a yearly custom for many.

The Holiday Light Show, which began in 1986, featured fireworks, more than 1.5 million Christmas lights and the world’s tallest living Christmas tree, which stands at more than twice the height of New York City’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, according to organizers.

People came from many locales to see the renowned show – two men from China even came when they heard of the firework show. Jeremy and Nicole Douglas didn’t travel that far, but they did make the three-hour drive from Prosser, Wash., to attend.

“We will make this our tradition,” Nicole Douglas said. “This is our second year, but we want many more to come. We don’t have anything like this where we’re from. It’s just a great family event all around.”

The light show kicked off with a parade downtown. Squeals of yuletide glee mingled with Christmas music as commercial and community groups in the parade passed by. About 30,000 people were expected to attend, and bundled-up onlookers clutching hot cocoa lined the sidewalks along Sherman Avenue and spilled into the streets.

Santa Claus – as well as many impostors – made an appearance, and while his reindeer didn’t attend, the parade did include a squad of dancing elves, a zebra and jingling dogs donning Christmas lights and bells.

The parade was followed by Christmas carols, a large fireworks show and the lighting of the massive tree. Those who opted to pay for a ride in a cruise boat were afforded views of the displays not visible from shore. Cruises will continue to be offered through Jan. 2.

“It’s a tradition,” said Janine Church, who has been coming with her family for about a decade. “It’s a super great way to start the holidays.”

Her years of experience with the show were obvious – her family had set up a shelter, chairs and a heater. They arrived hours before the parade began to get good seats.

“We come rain, snow or shine,” she said. “We’ve looked at the fireworks show in blizzards.”

Her kids – ages 11 and 14 – have formed many memories there over the years, and have yet to tire of the yearly family outing.

“I love it,” said Kailee Church, 14. “It’s just super fun and everyone is always happy and excited.”