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This Is Iowa: The beautiful, bright lights of Oskaloosa's Town Square

Iowa is full of beautiful town squares, but few can compete — at least during the holidays — with Oskaloosa's.

Thousands crowded the Mahaska County seat's square for the town's annual lighted Christmas parade on the first Friday of December. People and parade floats were covered in Christmas lights, as were the buildings that ring City Square Park.

It's one of the most impressive light displays in Iowa — 300,000 LEDs strung across every storefront, making them look like they came straight out of a Hallmark movie. The effort first started in 2016 and has been drawing oohs and ahhs since.

Jane Nicholson, with Mahaska Drug, said her team spends months working out plans and then building their float in the lighted parade.

"We usually start in January, trying to figure out what we want to do," she said. "It's kind of a group deal where we sit down, and everybody kind of talks about what we'd like it to be."

This year, they built a "Polar Express" train and put together one of the most impressive floats in the parade that included 70 entries — led by a squad car sporting Rudolph's nose.

It can sometimes be a long, cold evening, but for Nicholson and many others, the show is worth it.

"I think there's a lot of people in Oskaloosa that really just get it," she said. "They get the Christmas spirit. There's lots of businesses, lots of churches, there's lots of groups and everybody participates.

"It just makes me happy. Making people happy and seeing the kids and the adults and the grandpas and the grandchildren all happy — that's what it's all about."

This Is Iowa: The beautiful, bright lights of Oskaloosa's Town Square
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