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Fantasy on the lake 

by Jessica Milstead

Although many people have already made Coeur d'Alene's "Fantasy In Lights" part of their holiday traditions, this year's festival is going to be more extravagant than ever. In addition to the annual parade and festivities that take place the day after Thanksgiving, there will be a spectacular fireworks show and cruises across the lake to visit Santa at the North Pole.

Steve Wheeler, director of marketing for the Coeur d' Alene Resort, says, "They decorate all the trees and outline all the buildings and that kind of thing, but this really took it to the next level."

The newest mega-light displays are situated across the lake from the city, in Casco Bay, where they remain a mystery until you take the cruise to the other side of the lake. Once there, the boats are greeted by none other than Santa himself, who chats with the cruisers as he brings the displays to life. The largest of the displays depicts Santa and Rudolph standing 50 feet high and more than 150 feet long as they take off on their journey; it's the biggest display built by Carpenter Decorators of North Carolina.

Kickoff day for Fantasy in Lights is November 23, and is guaranteed to start the Christmas season with a bang. A lighted parade will start at 5 pm on Sherman Avenue, with a sing-along of "Silent Night" following. Candles will be provided to accompany the caroling. Topping off the evening is the patriotic fireworks display that was added to the festival this year.

"I think this year, particularly, with everything that has happened, we've heard from a lot of families who are coming here to take the cruise, and coming together downtown in a way that is really spectacular," says Wheeler.

The cruises continue daily through New Year's Day, with boats departing every night at 4:30, 6, 7:30 and 9 from the Boardwalk Cruise Center. The cost is $9.75, with children 12 and younger free. Call: (208) 765-4000.

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