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Willmar church's biannual Christmas open house offers a time for reflection

Clarie Novak, co-chair, for the Advent Festival Open House, adds the wings to an angelic display in one of the 20 rooms the public will be able to tour during Calvary Lutheran Church's three-day festival, beginning Friday. (TRIBUNE | DAN BURDETT)1 / 4
JoAnn Halverson, a parishioner at Calvary Lutheran Church in Willmar, adds the finishing touches to a painting that will be displayed during the church’s biannual Advent Festival Open House this weekend. Halverson is one of hundreds of volunteers who’ll have some kind of role in the event. (TRIBUNE | DAN BURDETT)2 / 4
Janet Haugen is the festival’s co-chair. Here, she adds a touch to a large Christmas tree that will welcome festival-goers. (TRIBUNE \ DAN BURDETT)3 / 4
This candle and illuminated cross display will welcome the public to the church’s chapel. (TRIBUNE | DAN BURDETT)4 / 4

Every other year since 1959, Calvary Lutheran Church in Willmar has been the site of a broad festival that offers the community an opportunity to ponder the true meaning of Christmas.

Dubbed the Advent Festival Open House, this year’s fête follows the theme of “Christ, Our Light” and aims to continue that mode.

“So often people get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, they forget what’s truly important,” said Clarice Novak, a Calvary parishioner, who co-chairs the festival with fellow parishioner Janet Haugen.

The event will be held from 1 to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday and will showcase more than 20 rooms in the church, education center and chapel adorned with ornamental displays as part of a themed tour.

Each room’s embellishment will be rooted in the John 8:12 verse: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Haugen said planning and coordinating the tour is substantial and requires the volunteerism of more than 200 members of the congregation. Other volunteers will provide entertainment, with a roster of local singers, instrumentalists and school choirs scheduled to perform hymns in the sanctuary throughout each of the festival’s three days. Artificers, too, will be on hand to offer their tutelage in a craft room, where festival-goers can create take-home ornaments.

Interactive activities will also be offered for children, who can play a game of “find the light” in each of the rooms.

At the conclusion of the tour, people can gather in the fellowship hall for prayer time, socializing and refreshments that will include samplings of traditional Norwegian lefse.

“The goal is to create a peaceful and serene environment, where people take their time to be at one with their spirituality,” Novak said. “In previous years we’ve had people stop by and spend hours just taking it all in.”

The festival is free to the public and is open to those of all denominations.

The tour is also handicap accessible.

Calvary Lutheran Church is located at 302 Olena Ave. S.E., one block north of Willmar Middle School.

For more information on the Advent Festival Open House, call Novak at 320-235-5464 or visit

Dan Burdett

Dan Burdett is the community content coordinator at the West Central Tribune. He has 13 years experience in print media, to include four years enlisted service in the United States Air Force. He has been an employee of Forum Communications since 2005, joining the company after spending two years as the managing editor of the Redwood Gazette and Livewire in Redwood Falls. Prior to his current position, Dan was the presentation editor at the Tribune.

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