The city of Rosemount has come together annually to light a Christmas tree for the past 25 years. Last year, city youth teamed up with the Rosemount Area Arts Council to build up the event, and it worked so well that this year, they've turned it into an all-day affair.

"It kind of unites the city together over a common event," said Jacob Alex, 17, a senior at Rosemount High School and a member of the Rosemount Youth Commission. "It's cool to see the mayor light the tree, and it's nice to see the kids' faces light up when they see Santa."

The tree lighting event takes place on Saturday at the Steeple Center.

Alex said about 80 people showed up last year, and planners expect even more at this year's event. "It's gotten a lot more support," he said. "It was very successful last year, and the word's gotten out."

"It's great for the youth to have their own event that they can really rally around," said Zack Eichten, 18, a Rosemount High senior who also serves on the Youth Commission.

Long tradition

Rosemount Area Arts Council Chairman John Loch helped start the inaugural tree lighting event many years ago in the plaza near the drugstore he owned. The event has moved around to various locations in the city throughout the years, and for the past few years it's been at the Steeple Center.

Last year, the group of 15 students on the youth commission got involved, and the students organized a performance by a chamber choir and a brass ensemble from the high school.

Youth commission members have to apply for positions and meet monthly throughout the year, said the commission's liaison, Emmy Foster. Throughout the year, they participate in youth summits and meet with city leaders to discuss issues. Foster, who also serves as Rosemount's assistant city administrator, said the city started the Youth Commission in 2009 as a way to help young people have a voice.

"They really were interested in hearing from the youth in the community," she said. "They really were interested in learning what the youth were interested in and what they had concerns about."

She said the tree lighting allows the students to take ownership of a city event. She said the students take charge of the event on the day of the activities while arts council members "are kind of doing the behind the scenes stuff."

The day's schedule

On Saturday, the mayor will light the tree at 6 p.m. Eichten recommended that people arrive 10 minutes early to hear the music. During the event, Santa will arrive and take wish lists in his sleigh, and free cookies and apple cider will be served.

Earlier in the day, from 10 a.m. to noon, children ages 7 to 13 can take a snowman ornament class ($12), and there will be a free showing of the film "The Polar Express" from 1 to 3 p.m. Popcorn, candy and soft drinks will be sold. A model train group from Farmington will have a "Polar Express" train setup running before and after the movie, and young visitors will be greeted by a conductor.

"Christmas in Connecticut," a holiday film classic starring Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan and Sydney Greenstreet, begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $6 a person, and popcorn, candy and soft drinks will be sold.

"Next year," said Loch, "we will probably add something else to keep up the momentum."

Liz Rolfsmeier is a Twin Cities freelance writer.