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It’s a new Christmas City of the North Parade: Here’s a look behind the scenes

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DULUTH, MN-- It's one of the most wonderful nights of the year in the Northland. The Christmas City of the North Parade will march down the streets in Duluth Friday.

But in a year where a global pandemic is taking center stage, things are different for our parade participants.

Dating back to 1958, the Christmas City of the North Parade is an annual tradition that helps kick off the holiday season.

KBJR General Manager, David Jensch said, "The date of the Parade, the week before what is now Black Friday was targeting specifically to get shoppers to start thinking and buying early."

It's not just businesses. Crowds of eager spectators gather to watch parade floats, dancers, bands, and of course, Santa Claus.

"In a typical year we have maybe 12,000 people lining Superior Street to watch the parade and obviously we knew we couldn't do that," said Jensch.

2020 is anything but a typical year. A global pandemic has changed the course of what was once normal including asking spectators to stay home and minimizing human contact.

Jensch explains, when they were thinking of how to still provide the parade, one iconic celebration was an inspiration.
"When Macy's came out in midsummer and announced their plan for a live parade with prerecorded segments, we decided we would try that same option."

Prerecorded segments produced by KBJR's Creative Department, allows high schools across the Northland to still participate and show off their talents.

KBJR and Parade Director, Jordan Sherman said, "In some ways, it will be easier because a lot of the pre-recorded elements we won't have to worry about them like they're set to go."

Another notable change, a new parade route thanks to the help of the DECC and Duluth Police.

Reimagining a decades-old tradition was tricky. Meeting in person wasn't an option so all parade planning meetings were done virtually.

Even producing a bulk of the production was done from the comfort of home.

"I've done most of the producing and most of building the show from home. Having to work from has definitely caused some challenges but it's also been really nice because you're able to take your own time with it and really pour your creative energy into it more," said Parade Producer Natalie Grant.

There are numerous components most don't even see.

"There's a lot of stuff that happens behind the scenes as far as producers and camera operators, we have to make sure all the live equipment is set and good to go," said Sherman.

Even the parade hosts are taking on new roles.

KBJR Chief Meteorologist and Parade Host, Adam Lorch said, "This year, I'm doing the interviews and I'm rather excited to switch it up. It's been fun being in the parade but it will be kind of cool interacting with folks around town."

For parade veterans, the changes were challenging.

"We've developed routine overtime. We know who's gonna be in the parade, we know when, where they're going to be. This year everything is different, nothings the same. That's okay. We want everyone to be safe and still have fun," said KBJR Anchor and Parade Host Dan Wolfe who is on his fifth year hosting the parade.

For the new-comers, it's about rolling with the punches.

For KBJR Anchor and Parade Host Bonney Bowman, it's her second year hosting. She said, "It's been a really tough year for a lot of people and so it was really important to us that we took the steps necessary and really did what it takes to make sure this parade could happen.

In a trying year where so much is uncertain, KBJR wanted to make sure the holidays still feel like home.

"The parade is seen by people in this community as something that's normal and we felt that if we did nothing else, we would give people of the Northland one of their normal traditions to watch on TV," said Jensch. "We're pretty excited as we're seeing this all come together."

You can watch the 62nd Annual Christmas City of the North Parade at 6:30 p.m. after the KBJR 6 News at 6 p.m.

You can also watch live streaming online here.

Jessie Slater

Evening Anchor and Reporter

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