Holding On To History: 65 years of the Christmas City of the North parade

Published: Nov. 13, 2023 at 10:33 PM CST
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DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - The Christmas City of the North Parade goes back to 1958. It was the brainchild of station general manager Bob Rich.

“That was one thing that Bob Rich started that really stuck, the Christmas City of the North Parade and it’s been good for the city.” said former weatherman and kids show host Ray Paulsen in an interview recorded before his passing in 2011.

The parade was an instant success and by 1962, 15 thousand people were in the street to watch the spectacle. Participants were coming from far and wide to take part.

“They were coming from Canada, Minneapolis, northern Wisconsin and from over in Michigan.” said Lew Martin, former Channel 6 news director who lived to the age of 103 during an interview recorded about 15 years ago.

For station employees even today, working the big parade is rewarding but sometimes painful if the weather doesn’t cooperate. In the 60′s it rarely did.

“Because back then it was always zero and cold and windy and ice, I’ve never been so cold in my life.” said Paulsen who did many parades dressed as the kids show character Mr. Toot.

The parade has gone on without a hitch every year except 1963. That’s the year President Kennedy was assassinated.

“And we all stopped dead in our tracks at the station, what in the world is going on?” said Paulsen.

Units assembling for the 1963 parade had to be told to go home.

“So we just had to tell them that the president had been killed today and certainly we could have no parade.” said Martin.

Over the years, other news events have had their effect on the parade including the Vietnam War and the 1973 energy crisis. Until 1971, the parade’s hosts were exclusively male until NBC 6 talk show host Ruth Crassweller opened the door. Her first time out brought beautiful weather.

“It really was wonderful because it wasn’t too cold and there was no snow on the ground and it was a great thing to do.” said the late Crassweller during an interview conducted in 2004.

It still takes a lot to set up and tear down this Northland tradition all in one day but at least for the 65th anniversary outing on Friday, the weather should cooperate.

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