Santa cruises Main Street atop one of 68 entries in Belgrade’s Christmas Convoy Saturday night. The event was a highlight of this year’s especially well-received Festival of Lights celebration.

Dump trucks, semis, and pickups are not a rare sight in Belgrade, but last weekend residents saw them in a new light – actually, a whole string of lights, as they were decked out in holiday decorations for the very first Christmas Convoy.

Almost 70 trucks lit up with festive decor traveled along a 7-mile-long route Saturday as part of the Belgrade Community Coalition’s Festival of Lights celebration.

“We see these trucks on the road every day. It’s really cool to see them in a different very fun way,” Belgrade Community Coalition volunteer board member Amber Stacy said.

The organization wanted to create an event that would allow the community to connect despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Christmas Convoy seemed like the perfect fit. Stacy, Tiffany and Mark Maierle, D&D Trucking owner Ben Flis, and Ken Murphy Jr. worked as a team to make the convoy a reality and ensure viewers would be able to spread out safely along the route to watch.

“We really felt like the community needed something this year more than ever and we were determined to make that happen,” Stacy said.

Belgrade resident Josh Bergan said he and his friends were “blown away” by the event.

“It was something special, it was something that we really needed in 2020,” he said. “It was really cool and fun and great to see the community come together and celebrate something.”

He said events like these are particularly important for community-building in Belgrade, given the town’s proximity to the city of Bozeman.

“We rely on Bozeman so much,” Bergan said. “(This) really make(s) it feel like we do have our own community out here.”

Bergan said he hopes the event will become an annual event, as he thought it was even better than the activities the city normally offers around the holidays.

Linda and Steve Jones of Gainin’ Ground Trucking LLC, who drove their dump truck in the convoy, were also thrilled with the event and agreed it should become a tradition.

“I hope we do it again next year,” Linda said. “It was such an amazing, well-planned-out convoy.”

She said the community’s reaction and turnout was wonderful and made for a “rejoiceful” night.

“It was such a bright spot in such a difficult time,” she said.

Although many logistics were involved with registering truck drivers, reaching out to local businesses, and coordinating with the police department and city, Stacy said the community’s positive reaction was well worth all the effort involved.

“It was worth every minute seeing people be happy in such a difficult year,” she said.

Not to be outdone, folks in Manhattan and Three Forks also took to the streets to celebrate the season together in their communities. Participants and observers who spoke to the Belgrade News this week said they especially appreciated being able to gather safely with their friends and neighbors at the end of this particularly tough year.