NextGen to spruce up Lake Elmo with holiday tree lighting

Dana Bloyer will soon help her three children shop for Christmas ornaments that will hang on a community tree in downtown Lake Elmo this holiday season, and then be donated to a local youth program.

As a member of NextGen, a group of about a dozen twenty- to forty-somethings, she hopes to make downtown Lake Elmo sparkle with the city’s first community tree lighting event: Light Up Lake Elmo. It’s the new group’s first initiative. 

Businesses, organizations and individuals are encouraged to sponsor and adorn a tree. Community members are invited to bring an ornament for a central tree during Light Up Lake Elmo at 4 p.m. on Dec. 7.

The trees will be lighted at 6 p.m. in the vacant lot near the Lake Elmo Inn on 34th Street North, and then be turned on every weekend through New Year’s Day.

The group is working on organizing an activity to coincide with the lighting. Bloyer said she and other NextGen members are developing a passport, where kids receive a stamp at various businesses for completing an activity, such as writing a letter to Santa.

Krueger’s Christmas Tree Farm is donating the community tree, which will most likely be a 12-foot Fraser fir, according to Deb Krueger.

“It’s a good way to try to tie people together and raise some community spirit,” Krueger said. “We are the tree people. We are more than happy to do our part and donate a tree.”

Lake Elmo Inn owner John Schiltz said he hopes to see businesses offer special promotions, hot chocolate and marshmallows or “something within that festive atmosphere that we’re trying to create.”

“Hopefully, it will become contagious,” he said.

“If we were to have a little more space and we were to have a rink and a Santa out there ... it could be so magical.”

Schiltz is known to spread Christmas cheer, and was one of the driving forces behind Light Up Lake Elmo. Every year, the inn is covered in lights outside and overtaken with holiday trimmings inside.

The inn will host breakfast with Santa for another year, the same day as the tree lighting.

Schiltz and some Lake Elmo Rotary Club members had the idea that became Light Up Lake Elmo, he said.

“We were trying to get something going in Lake Elmo to try to bring the community together and to try to add a little bit more sparkle to our town,” he said.

Schlitz was inspired by a spectacular ceremony in Kansas City, Mo.

For the last century, the mayor and a celebrity have lit more than 7,000 lights on a tree 100 feet tall. Thousands of people flock to the plaza to watch it.

The giant tree is then made into commemorative ornaments that are sold to benefit a fund, which helps the city’s less fortunate.

With that inspiration, city staff and the NextGen group organized Light Up Lake Elmo. After the lights, ornaments and trees are taken down, decorations will be donated to the FamilyMeans Cimarron youth program.

The event is about community engagement, which is also one of the main goals of the NextGen group, according to Alyssa MacLeod, the city’s communications coordinator.

The hope is to draw people downtown, while giving a variety of businesses exposure through tree sponsorship, which costs $50 and includes a plaque to identify the sponsor.

“We want to get something going here in Lake Elmo that really defines Lake Elmo and gives us something we can put our stamp on,” MacLeod said.  “We have this lovely downtown area that is underutilized, and we thought we could spruce it up.”
MacLeod said 10 businesses have already sponsored trees.

NextGen looks to the future

According to MacLeod, the city hoped to capture the perspective of younger residents by starting NextGen. The group began meeting monthly this summer and dove into planning Light Up Lake Elmo.

The group’s goals are partly based on “Live First, Work Second” by Rebecca Ryan, a book that aggregates thousands of interviews with those of the “next generations,” offering ways to make better places to live and work.

Bloyer said the author may soon meet with the group to offer guidance on assessing what Lake Elmo is and what it could be.

“The NextGen group was originally put together to bring new ideas to the table,” Bloyer said. “It has really evolved into getting out into the community and bringing folks together.”

NextGen’s next project will be an activity with the youth programs at Stillwater-based FamilyMeans, which offers programs and services, including mental health-related support, assistance with finances and counseling, to families, children, individuals and couples experiencing a variety of challenges.

Those interested in sponsoring a tree or getting involved with NextGen can call Alyssa MacLeod at 651-747-3908.

Kaitlyn Roby can be reached at or at 651-748-7814. You can also find her at (@KRobyNews).

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