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Sioux City Christmas tree
Downtown Sioux City to kick off holiday season today

SIOUX CITY -- Ragan Cote knows a thing or two about decorating Christmas trees.

"It's better to use gold or red decorations," the executive director of Downtown Partners said as she oversaw a handful of volunteers on Nov. 15. "If you use green decorations, they'll just get lost against the green in the tree."

Actually, the tree that Cote and her crew is accessorizing is hard to miss.

It is the 21-foot artificial evergreen that will be standing in the front yard of the Sioux City Public Museum, 607 Fourth St., between now and the beginning of the new year.

"I love having our tree at the museum," Cote said. "It really is the perfect location for it."

However, decorating the official Downtown Sioux City Christmas tree is just the start of a slate of Downtown for the Holidays activities, which will begin when the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 231 presents the annual Holiday Lighted Parade at 6:15 p.m. Monday.

"The parade will start at Iowa Street, jingling its way down Fourth Street," Cote said.

More than 30 Siouxland businesses, organizations and service groups are expected to participate in the parade for exposure, as well as some seasonal bragging rights. 

There will be a $150 first place prize, a $100 second place prize and a $50 third place for each class of commercial and noncommercial float.

In addition, the LaunchPAD Children's Museum, 607 Pearl St., will be offering free admission from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Monday in exchange for hand warmers, socks or travel-sized toiletries for the Warming Shelter, 916 Nebraska St. 

While you're at the Children's Museum, Cote recommends walking a few blocks away to Evolve Yoga & Wellness Center, 411 Pearl St., for some free chocolate.

Chances are you'll need some sustenance since the night is just getting started, she added.

From 5 to 8 p.m. Monday, the Public Museum will also be open to accommodate a certain North Pole-based visitor.

After Santa Claus officially lights up the Downtown for the Holidays Christmas tree, he'll be holding court, across the street, at Santa's House, 409 Nebraska St. 

Open from 6 to 8 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays; and noon to 4 p.m., Sundays, Santa's House will give kids a chance to visit with the jolly man, himself, from Nov. 24 through Dec. 20.

This year's Festival of Trees will also begin its season with bell choirs and dance performance taking place at the Ho-Chunk Centre atrium, 600 Fourth St. Cote suggests checking out the trees, which will be on display through Nov. 29, when the Festival of Tree auction begins at 6:30 p.m.

The proceeds of this year's auction will go to the Mary J. Treglia Community House, 900 Jennings St.

Checking out the oversize decorations that will be hanging on the Christmas tree in front of the front of the public museum, Cote can't help but smile. 

"It seems like the year has just flown by," she said. "I'm just so happy that  the holidays will soon be here."

As her staff put the finishing touches on their festive tree, Cote said, "Well, it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas." 

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal 

Great Southern Bank employees are shown Nov. 8 at the bank's downtown Sioux City location. Great Southern has donated to the Journal's Goodfellows charity. 

Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

Morningside's Bo Els stiff-arms Rocky Mountain's Mason Price during Saturday's first-round NAIA football playoff game Saturday.


Commissioning complete, USS Sioux City heads home

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- After nearly two years spent working to give the USS Sioux City and her crew a commissioning celebration they'd never forget, members of the commissioning committee held on Sunday for a long goodbye to the ship and crew they have grown to love.

With a long, loud blast from its horn, the USS Sioux City signaled two tugboats to pull it away from the Dewey Seawall at the U.S. Naval Academy and into deeper water in the middle of the Severn River.

Done pulling, the tugs unhooked their lines, and an officer on board the USS Sioux City called out, "Attention to starboard." Crew members working on the decks came to the shoreside railing, stood at attention and saluted those on shore as the warship's engines began powering the vessel forward.

"We did it," retired Rear Adm. Frank Thorp, the commissioning committee's chairman, yelled to fellow committee members, including Siouxland Chamber of Commerce president Chris McGowan, who had served as co-chairman.

With cellphones held high to catch a few final photos and videos, committee members and other spectators walked along the seawall, following the USS Sioux City as it picked up speed and headed down the river. Reaching the end of the seawall, everyone stopped, watching the ship grow smaller and smaller as it headed to its home port in Mayport, Florida.

Minutes before, Thorp, McGowan and other committee members posed on shore for photos with the ship's commanding officer Cmdr. Randy Malone, who was still beaming the day after the first Navy warship named for Sioux City had been commissioned in front of more than 6,000 people and top Navy commanders.

"There's no moment in my career that will ever match what we did yesterday," said Malone, dressed in fatigues rather than the dress uniforms he'd been wearing for many of the previous days' festivities.

On board the ship a couple hours before leaving, crew members were stowing red-white-and-blue bunting and other banners that had been hung on board while the ship greeted more than 9,000 visitors who had toured it since its arrival in Annapolis on Tuesday.

One milestone down, the next -- certification of the ship and its systems -- on the horizon, said Lt. j.g. Amaia Maldonado.

But first, she said, a welcomed trip home to Florida after months of training that preceded sailing the ship from a Wisconsin shipyard to Annapolis. Taking part in the commissioning was fun and an honor for the 75 crew members, now they were ready to see their families and sleep in their own beds after they dock in their home port Wednesday.

"For us, we've been out of our homes since June, so we're getting home," Maldonado said.

After arriving in Florida, the USS Sioux City will receive equipment upgrades before beginning testing in January. About a year later, the ship and its crew will begin a certification process. A deployment schedule has yet to be established, Malone said.

"We are happy that this week of celebrations are over and that we can get back to work," Malone said.