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Grenora thinks big with Christmas show

Small town thinks big with Christmas show

Submitted Photo From left, Grenora City Auditor Jane Schenstad, Mayor Brett Wilkins, Val Kueffler and Pam Gunlikson display gift bags and some of the gift items that will be given to people attending the Magical Medora Christmas Show being hosted in Grenora Friday night.

GRENORA – Residents of Grenora are rolling out the red carpet tonight to feed and entertain a crowd larger than the small community’s population.

When Grenora, which has an estimated population of about 306, captured a coveted spot on the popular tour of the Magical Medora Christmas Show, the community began planning to host 450 people. As plans came together, they had the idea to serve their guests a ham dinner. Then they decided to prepare gift baskets for every one of those guests.

Mayor Brett Wilkins said it was his idea a year and half ago to invite the Medora Foundation to bring its annual show to his town because he just loves Medora. Having convinced the foundation that his community could pull it off, he said, he was excited until the reality of putting everything together hit.

“It’s a bit of an undertaking,” he said. “I went from super-confident to kind of scared and back to super confident.” He credits his recent confidence to the Grenora community.

“The last three to four months, it has come together so well,” he said. “You look around and your community steps up like this, it’s just great. Every time I turn around, all these other people have the answers.”

Upon learning the musical was coming, Wilkins had enlisted the help of the Grenora Community Club. The club has been spearheading the event, recruiting volunteers to serve on various committees. Wilkins said everyone has volunteered.

“Even my sister flew in from California and she was on two committees before she landed in Minot yesterday,” Wilkins said Wednesday. “I have her working with people whose families have been here five generations.”

Wilkins said the school district also has been more than accommodating, changing its basketball schedule to clear both gymnasiums to host the event and enable families to attend.

Grenora’s commercial district, which consists of about eight Main Street businesses and some home businesses, threw their support behind the event. The businesses and the city’s engineering firm donated items for the gift baskets. The baskets include a Christmas ornament in the shape of an old-fashioned train. Grenora takes its name from the first letters in Great Northern Railway, the railroad along which the town sprang up in 1916.

“It’s going to be something at least kind of special to say thank you and, hopefully, they will remember our city in years to come,” Wilkins said.

The town’s economic development group donated toward the dinner, for which the event planners are asking only for a free-will offering. Community residents who aren’t attending the show are invited to the meal.

Brandy Hanson, manager of Grenora’s Centennial Bar, is heading up a crew that will be preparing and serving the meal. The bar has hosted other big events so is ready for this one.

The local cafe will be serving a homemade meal to the Medora entertainers.

Wilkins said the Medora Foundation has been phenomenal to work with. In working with Grenora, the foundation encountered a Grenora resident whom it asked to join its lighting and technical crew for the 30 shows over 23 days. Craig Hauber has around 30 years of experience in sound and lighting, having previously worked in California before joining Wilkins in coming to Grenora about 11 years ago.

Two days before opening tonight at 7:30 p.m., the Medora show was on the verge of selling out. The performance is attracting folks from around Williams and area counties. More than 100 tickets have gone to residents of eastern Montana, and Canadian visitors also are expected.

Although hosting a population larger its own involves an extensive amount of work, Wilkins said the Grenora community believes its contributions to making the event happen in a grand way are well worth it.

“If you can bring the entire population of the city into one setting and that event becomes a success,” he said, “it does nothing but perpetuate more events and more people coming to your city down the line.”

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