Volunteers step up after Grinch sabotages Sartell holiday lights display

It's not even Thanksgiving, but the Grinch has already made an appearance in Sartell, targeting the Country Lights Festival. Just as the festival was nearing its grand unveiling, vandals cut several strings of lights, threatening to dim the holiday spirit.

In what can only be described as a true testament to the holiday spirit, the worst situations often bring out the best in people, and this certainly holds true in Sartell.

The Country Lights Festival, a tradition that has been sparkling for the last few years with half a million lights, brings Christmas cheer to the community.

But last week, as organizers were preparing for the event, organizers got a nasty surprise.

"It was devastating. It was just a gut punch, really," said Chip Schwarzentraub with the festival. "Out of our 90 trees, we had 85 that were snipped. It's not necessarily the monetary value lost, but it's really the volunteer hours that we've lost after we built these trees."

The local police department is investigating the vandalism. In response to the damage, the community stepped up, offering donations to replace the lights and volunteering time to repair them. Thursday, volunteers came together to restore the festive display.

Robin Ringler, who drove 93 miles to help, isn't a local resident. But after hearing about the incident on the radio, he was moved to help.

"It's nice to help when you can," Ringler said. "I hope more people have that same feeling."

Thanks to the collective efforts, the lights are now back up and ready to brighten the holiday season for everyone.