DULUTH, MN – The Christmas City of the North Parade is a tradition now 60 years in the making.
And throughout those six decades, countless Northland families have made their own memories, either along Superior Street or watching the parade on KBJR 6.
Twenty years ago, just across the street from our Canal Park studio, another memory was made. The parade came to a pause when Steven Gerard got down on one knee to ask the most important question to the woman he loved.
The year was 1998, and for Steven and Dana Gerard, it was love at first sight.
“We met at the Tap Room in Duluth, out with a bunch of friends, ” Steven said.
“I remember him opening the doors for me, and I think after our first date he sent me roses,” Dana said. “I thought he was nice and paid attention and we had fun.”
Steven was immediately attracted to Dana’s ambition.
“She was really driven. She was going to school, working a couple of jobs, and I just really appreciated that she knew what she wanted in life and she was willing to work for it.”
He was from Cloquet. She was from Superior. The two wasted no time getting to know each other.
“I can remember the day when I felt 100 percent comfortable in front of her and I thought, yup, I’m going to marry this one,” Steven said. “And that’s when I started planning out the rather detailed proposal.”
Steven didn’t hold back. He wanted his gesture to reflect his feelings.
“I decided I was going to attempt to propose to her during the parade. Decided to dress up as Santa Claus.”
But pulling off the proposal was easier said than done.
“It was actually my first time being at the parade and I was cold. I didn’t have boots on,” Dana said. “I was cold and I wanted to go sit in the car and my mother-in-law was wrapping blankets around me and she said, ‘No, just stay here…'”
But then, someone called her name.
“‘Paging Dana Erickson,’ and they had a sign that my mom had made up with glitter and stuff that read ‘Dana, will you marry me?’ She almost walked right by me,” Steven said. “There’s Santa Claus on a knee and I had to reach out and grab her hand, and then she realized what was going on finally.”
And once she realized who the man was in the Santa suit, she said ‘yes.’
“It was kind of a blur, but I remember just a lot of people then coming around.,” Dana said.
“It felt like everyone was in on it, except Dana, and it just surprised me that she didn’t recognize that the whole corner was family and friends,” Steven said.
A love story celebrated in the middle of the Christmas City of the North parade.
“I thought it was sweet. When I tell people the story, they love hearing it, so it was a good proposal,” Dana said.
“I like when I tell guys about it and they’re like ‘well, you outdid me’,” Steven said.
Now, 20 years, three military deployments, and two children later, the Gerards look back on that night with a smile.
“I think every year we’ll probably talk about it and she’ll mention how cold she was and I’ll just mention some of the behind-the-scenes stuff that was going on,” Steven said. “We just kind of reminisce back to 20 years ago. It’s just mind-boggling that it’s been that long.”