For more than 20 years, the St. Croix Valley's holiday season has begun with the Victorian Christmas at the Historic Courthouse Preview Gala, scheduled this year for 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Nov. 22.

The decorated courthouse glows with lights as guests approach the elegant site sitting high on the bluff overlooking the St. Croix River. Guests will enjoy champagne, coffee and sparkling cider in addition to appetizers and desserts donated by the Lake Elmo Inn Event Center, River Valley Catering, Brine's Market, Chowgirls, Donatelli's, Mama Maria's, Joseph's Catering and Kane's Catering. Lift Bridge Brewery will host beer tasting featuring handcrafted beers made in Stillwater.

Guests may begin their holiday shopping for arts and crafts in the vendor booths. Costumed volunteers and vendors add to the festive Victorian atmosphere. Donated door prizes will be awarded. A quilt made and donated by Courthouse Quilters will be raffled Sunday afternoon. A new feature this year will be gift-wrapping by the Historic Courthouse staff and volunteers.

The Preview Gala is a restoration and operations fundraiser for the Washington County Historic Courthouse, and nearly $275,000 has been raised by the event over the years.

Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. Tickets may be purchased at the Historic Courthouse, 101 W. Pine St., Stillwater, or by mail or telephone. Additional information about ticket purchases and the event may be found at

The Victorian Christmas event continues 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 23 and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 24.

There is live music throughout the event. Santa will be visiting Saturday and Sunday afternoons, a Tea Room is available, and a holiday exhibit will be open. Admission on Saturday and Sunday is $3 per person. For tickets or more information, see, e-mail, or call 651-275-7075.


Teen workshop teaches writing

Mike Blumer, author of the "Secret Books of Gabendoor" series, is returning to host a writing workshop for teens on Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 29-30, from 4-6 p.m. at the Stillwater Public Library.

This two-part class on basic fiction/fantasy writing will focus on plot and description. Learn skills to write nail biting plots and descriptions that sweep readers into stories. Participants will rewrite nursery rhymes for practice. What dire events unfold when Jack and Jill don't get up that hill? Old Mother Hubbard went to her cupboard, but it wasn't bare. What did she find there?

Call ahead to register for the course, and plan to attend both sessions. For more information about these and other programs at the Stillwater Public Library, call 651-275-4338, ext. 111, or visit:

Cottage Grove

Holiday Train celebration returns

In mid-December, Cottage Grove will once again host Canadian Pacific's annual Holiday Train celebration, a night of music and family activities.

The event will be held Dec. 14 at the Cottage Grove Rail Yard, 9250 Ideal Av. Since 1999, the program has raised nearly $7.4 million and donated about 3 million pounds of food to food banks in the United States and Canada, according to Canadian Pacific's website.

Entertainment will include a concert by Wisconsin-based singer-songwriter Willy Porter, playing with the Claytones aboard the Holiday Train, which has a modified boxcar that's been converted to a traveling stage for performers.

The Holiday Train program's three-week journey includes stops in eight states in the Midwest and Northeast, including 26 cities in Minnesota. Proceeds will benefit the Friends in Need Food Shelf in St. Paul Park.

For more information, visit


Auction, dinner aids River Valley Riders

A Nov. 2 benefit for the River Valley Riders, a nonprofit therapeutic horseback-riding program, will feature an auction, live music and dinner.

The 10th annual Round-Up Dinner will raise funds for the organization, which offers horse-related activities for adults and children with special needs. The event includes a performance by Minneapolis-based blues saxophonist and pianist Tommy Burnevik and live and silent auctions.

The River Valley Riders provide "horse-related activities, including therapeutic riding and carriage driving, to children and adults by addressing needs in the areas of physical, sensory, neurological and mental health."

The benefit begins at 5 p.m. at the Prestwick Golf Club, 9555 Wedgewood Drive in Woodbury. Tickets are $60 and can be purchased on the Riders' website,

For more information, call 651-439-2558.

Lake elmo

Library will swap books for candy

The Lake Elmo Public Library will be trading a book for a quart-size bag or more of Halloween candy on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 1 and 2, and Nov. 4 and 5.

Any trick-or-treaters may bring their surplus candy in during the library's regular hours and choose a book from a large selection. The candy will be donated to the Armed Forces Service Center at Terminal One of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Lake Elmo Library is open Monday and Wednesday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information see