EMS opens Festival of Lights tonight

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Carroll County Emergency Medical Services Association’s annual Festival of Lights, which treats visitors to a winter wonderland of Christmas decorations and also generates vital support for the volunteer first-responder teams throughout the county, kicks off Friday night, Nov. 29.

The display at Swan Lake State Park will be open through Dec. 25 — from 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Proceeds from the event help EMS with purchases such as new automatic external defibrillators, which the department recently purchased for first-responder services in Halbur, Dedham, Lidderdale and Ralston, costing a total of $8,720.

Carroll County Ambulance Service Director Darrell Baker said those units are significantly more advanced than the previous AEDs.

In recent years, funds from the festival also were used to provide all first responders in the county emergency medical kits with supplies to treat patients until an ambulance arrives.

First-responder teams are located in Arcadia, Dedham, Glidden, Halbur, Lanesboro, Lidderdale, Ralston, Templeton and Willey.

Baker said of the approximately 100 first-responder volunteers in the county, “They do a very good job of caring for patients before an ambulance arrives. They help us immensely.”

Members of the EMS units are all volunteers, Kristin Nehring, a Willey first responder, said, “so we look to donations to have what we need to serve the people in our communities.”

Those volunteers assist Carroll County Ambulance Service, which has paramedic-staffed ambulances based in Carroll, Breda, Coon Rapids and Manning.

The Festival of Lights begins at Swan Lake State Park’s west entrance with decorations on the south side of the road counting down the “12 Days of Christmas” — from a drum to a partridge. Then, after turning into the campground, visitors are greeted by a giant welcome arch, which marks the start of dozens of displays sponsored by businesses and organizations. The displays feature an array of scenes — Nativity, angels, carolers, snowmen, Santa and much more. The campground road itself is lined with multicolored lights.

“We try to put up something new each year, and we do that with the help of area businesses,” Nehring said. “We ask businesses to sponsor the displays. There’s always something new to see. We’re fortunate it’s a holiday tradition for a lot of families to partake in the festival.”

At the finish, visitors have a chance to leave a donation with EMS volunteers staffing the festival for the evening.

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