ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Christmas lights in Rice Park gleamed Monday night, and the sound of horses hooves and jingling bells filled the night air.
It was the perfect place to rekindle the holiday spirit on an icy cold Minnesota Christmas Eve. But would the troubling headlines of the past few weeks keep people away? Not at all.
"It's a family tradition," Neil Schmitt of Eagan told KARE. "We drive down here every year."
Even the 10-degree temperatures didn't keep the Schmitt family from keeping their annual appointment with the Rice Park holiday displays.
"We do feel sorry for all the sorrow in the world right now. And we always hope for the best for everybody," Schmitt remarked.
"But we still enjoy our family time together. It's good to be here."
Tom and Barb Hvidhyld of Roseville stopped by the park to pose for snapshots with their teenage children after taking in mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul.
"This is the first time they've done a 5:00 Mass rather than a midnight Mass and it was full," Barb said. "It was really nice."
The stroll through the park's decorations would have to be a brief one, though.
"We're dressed for church, not for this!" Barb explained.
A few feet away a four-year-old boy named Clark ran through the snow laughing and shouting, "Catch me if you can!"
Clark's father, Steve Ciccone, said he's been coming to Rice Park since he was his little boy's age.
"My father grew up in this part of the city, so we like to drive around and look at his old neighborhood and stop by the park on Christmas Eve."
He said the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary made family time like this all the more important. And, with little Clark headed to kindergarten next year, the tragedy has been on his mind
"Being able to hold him and watch him run around and play is a blessing," Ciccone said.
"Especially with what's happened out in Connecticut. Your heart really goes out to the families out there, with constant prayers they can be healed."
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