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      Lights out on Fort Madison Parade of Lights

      The holiday season officially kicks off at the end of the month in Fort Madison with an annual tradition.

      But this year, there's a twist to the Parade of Lights ... there's not going to be one.

      Plans are in the works to do something a little different.

      Rich Morhfeld helped start the Parade of Lights 22-years-ago. In fact, he built the first float for the parade, a train engine. It's still part of the parade. For the past several years, he and Sam Manka have been in charge of doing the parade. This year, the Parade of Lights is becoming the Festival of Lights.

      "The only thing that's different is we are actually not having a physical parade go through downtown. Instead of the floats going by the spectators, they will be lit in the park so the spectators get to watch the lighting in the park instead of watching the floats go by them," Sam Manka explained.

      The Festival of Lights will be at 6:30 p.m. the Friday after Thanksgiving. The floats will be lit, the sponsors will be recognized and the festival is open for all to enjoy.

      "We will shut down Avenue H and we will have spectators stand there to watch, what we think is going to be really awesome. It's going to be a lighting of the floats. We'll actually get to highlight the floats, we'll have fireworks, Santa will be down there, we'll also have some food and drinks for the folks," Manka said.

      Not everyone is on board with the idea. Mike Abel is a Fort Madison native who has started an online petition to get the parade back on the street. So far, it has more than 600 signatures, and his Save the Lighted Parade Facebook page has more than 850 likes. He says he's all about expanding the event and making it more of a festival, with more stuff to do. He just really wants the parade back, and he thinks others agree.

      You can check out the online petition here .

      "It's a unique event. It draws people from all over to Fort Madison, and it's a tradition," Mike Abel said.

      "Everybody loves a parade. Don't get me wrong, I love a parade. But there also comes a time when you have the time when you have the same floats and the parade gets a little old, so that's why Sam and I discussed it this year and decided to do something different," Rich Mohrfeld said.

      Mohrfeld says it takes a lot to get a lighted parade going. One of which is making sure each float has a working generator to keep the lights on. He says, planning for the Festival is easier this year, and he thinks it'll be more family friendly. He also says, it makes it easier for future generations to take on the task of putting on the Festival of Lights.

      Both organizations also have Facebook pages. Here's a link to the Save the Lighted Parade page. And here's a link to the Parade of Lights page.