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On a cold Saturday of 5 degrees above zero, 48 people got on a coach bus headed for a warmer climate south of the border. At the helm was the great driver, Marilyn Matson.

Each passenger received a Christmas by the Lake flyer at random, each numbered from one to forty-eight, with the personal phone number of Santa (951-262-3062).

“Deal or No Deal” was played for prizes on the way south. A prize was shown, and a number between 1 and 48 was drawn. If the number drawn was the same number as the one on your flyer, you had a choice of either Deal or No Deal. If you chose Deal, the prize was sold for a cash prize later, plus any other prizes, including leftovers from the KFC food buffet later on, as your number was placed back with the eligible numbers.

Thirteen drawings were held for prizes. Winners included: Roger Jemming, Rhonda Jacobson, Stacey Jacobson, Marie Carlin, Erica Truesdell (?), Gerri Gilbertson, Bob Hanson, Lori Shaunce and Carol Miller. The cash drawing winner was Cheryl Schnarr.

Food coupons were given to each person on the bus. (Perkins from the Clear Lake Chamber, Dairy Queen from Jamie in Albert Lea, and KFC shaped like a Christmas stocking from Guyla in Albert Lea.

We arrived at our destination (Marilyn parked the bus such that the lighted Christmas parade and fireworks could be seen from the seats) with about an hour to partake in the various activities. Horse-drawn rides, strolling Dickens characters, trained geese, a petting zoo, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and shopping were just some of the activities. 

The lighted Christmas parade at 5 p.m. was followed by excellent fireworks shot from the ice on the lake. The fire ball with a loud blast at the end was so loud and long that many people claimed their teeth rattled. By now, you readers should have figured out all this took place south of the border in balmy Clear Lake, IA, with a temperature of 11 above zero and no wind. The sky was clear with a partial moon above the fireworks – an excellent evening for outside viewing. It was also an excellent night for long johns and cuddle-duds.

From the lake, we took the bus to KFC in Clear Lake. Kelly and Staff treated us like royalty with an all-you-can-eat buffet. Kelly even sent leftover buffet food containers, which were raffled off on the bus.

As we departed Lowell, Elmer gave a candy cane to all nine of the KFC staff. Bill Groskreutz led us in singing, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” to the staff as we gathered to leave. Just as we finished, the KFC staff sang the same song back to us. Needless to say, it was most touching.

The evening concluded with the bus being met by Pastor Vern Harris as we drove through the 20th Live Nativity at the New Life Christian Church on Marshall Street in Albert Lea. 

The next planned F.R.O.G. activity is a Valentine’s Day party with pizza, pop and an ice cream bar with Norwegian Bingo on Saturday evening, February 8th at Central Freeborn Lutheran Church.

The Christmas by the Lake bus trip in 2014 is scheduled for Saturday, December 16th.

Captain James Brickson of the Salvation Army, Albert Lea, MN: your record of 105 hours ringing a Salvation Army bell is fantastic. You are truly a professional bell ringer. Are you a professional hard water walleye fisherman at Lake of the Woods in Baudette, MN?

Many, many moons ago at this time, Mary and Joseph were really in a bind, as she was about ready to deliver a son and they couldn’t find an inn to stay at. The little feller born in a manger was named Jesus. Please remember the reason for the season.


Bob is a retired AAL (Aid Association for Lutherans) agent, currently working on his master’s degree in Volunteering. His wife, Genie, is a retired RN, currently working on her doctor’s degree in Volunteering. They have two children, Deb in North Carolina, and Dan in Vermont. Bob says if you enjoy his column, let him know. If you don’t enjoy it, keep on reading, it can get worse. Words of wisdom: There is always room for God.

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