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"Lightened our spirits a little'

Christmas trees on site of downtown fire

PROPHETSTOWN – The space that once was filled with eight buildings in downtown Prophetstown now has seven Christmas trees.

The trees were planted last Thursday and decorated with about 2,000 lights each on Monday. The lights will be turned on and synced with Christmas music at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, the start of the town's Christmas parade.

The Prophetstown branch of the IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union approached the town with the idea, said Sarah Klout, a supervisor at the bank.

"We wanted to do something," Klout said. "The credit union is all about the town. And it wanted to do something. And with the season, they wanted to do something, and they came up with this."

The bank also is where two fire-related funds – for the victims and the rebuilding effort – were established. The fire victims fund has been closed, Klout said, but the rebuilding fund still is open.

Mayor Steve Swanson said the trees, which are between 15 and 23 feet tall and are being watered by the town, will remain as long as they survive or until rebuilding begins.

"I think it's changed everybody’s hearts here in town – uplifted a little bit," Swanson said.

An electrical hookup will be established, Klout said, and the lights will be tested in the next few days.

Friday will mark the 4-month anniversary of the downtown fire that destroyed eight buildings July 15. The rubble was removed in September, leaving nearly a quarter of the downtown empty.

The town has already been contacted by some people interested in rebuilding or building on the lots, which Prophetstown now owns, and more details of the plans could be available by January, Swanson said.

Wednesday afternoon, from her desk at the Prophetstown Main Street office, Executive Director Eileen Detra could see the trees, which are much bigger than she had expected.

"It was an amazing day, with all the people that showed up," she said of the decorating on Monday. "It kind of lightened our spirits a little."

To donate

Prophetstown has set up a fund, "Rebuild Prophetstown Strong," to help clean up and rebuild the downtown. Donations can be made to Farmers National Bank branches in Prophetstown, Geneseo and Morrison, as well as IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union locations, one of which is in Prophetstown.

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