There is no finer exponent for kicking off the holiday season than the annual Holidays in the Heart of the City & Christmas Parade extravaganza, which this year will start on the evening of Friday, November 17th at 5:45 pm with the Lighting Ceremony at the Saginaw Water Treatment Plan, and conclude with the 8:30 PM Fireworks Display from Ojibway Island, followed by the 40th Annual Christmas Parade the next morning on Saturday, November 18th at 11 AM, featuring floats, marching bands, drill teams, costumed characters, and of course, an early appearance by Santa to help kick things off.With involvement from over 20 community organizations, this entire weekend extravaganza is organized through the passionate commitment of community members that comprise Positive Results for Downtown Saginaw, which over the span of 21 years now has drawn tens-of-thousands of people to Saginaw’s Old Town, Downtown, and Ezra Rust Park Drive districts for a jovial and glittering kick-off to the holiday season.
The theme of this year’s Parade is Christmas in Michigan; and according to Positive Results Director Jeanne Conger, this celebration has consistently grown and draws at least 10,000 people, with anywhere from 80 to 100 entries in the parade itself. “It seems to be growing every year,” she enthusiastically notes, “plus we have the Girls on the Run 5K ‘Reindeer Run’ race that gets over 500 people running down the parade route from the start to the end, finishing at the Andersen Enrichment Center.” Registration for this is at The Castle Museum at 9 am and the run starts at 10:45 am.
For the entire two-day Holidays in the Heart of the City celebration, approximately 20,000 people will attend, given the amount of activities going on and the attention this celebration has garnered throughout the region and state over the decades. (See Back Page of this issue for a full schedule, or visit prideinsaginaw.org)
“We have so much going on that most people can only make it to three events,” notes Jeanne. “Last year’s count at the Zoo involved 3,500 people attending, the activities at the Andersen Center drew another 2,000, and the four churches involved that staged full concerts collectively drew another 2,000 people, plus the activities at the Japanese Tea House were full.”
According to ‘Holidays’ Chairwoman Kathy Reis, “While this is the 40th anniversary for the parade, when we first started “Holidays in the Heart of the City” it was with the Festival of Lights and we had people traveling down Washington, Genesee, and Michigan in a big loop, but in 1996 decided to condense it to a walkable area of closed off streets between Court and over the bridge to Ezra Rust and split it into two events – the Holidays in the Heart of the City that kicks things off on Friday and then the Parade the following day.”
“The Ojibway Island Fireworks display on Friday at 8:30 PM pulls it all together,” she continues. “Our budget has stayed stable and many foundations and sponsors have come forward to help us cover costs, so it’s gratifying that both our level of sponsorships and attendance have grown over the years.”
As for changes and refinements at this year’s celebrations, Kathy notes that the Live Nativity Scene with live animals that is produced by Bethlehem Lutheran Church will be staged at The Montague Inn this year.
“We also want to encourage people and businesses to enter our HAP/WSGW Cookie House Competition at the Andersen Enrichment Center,” notes Kathy. “We have six different categories with $100 price money in each category, so this is an excellent team building project for businesses to become involved with.”
The categories for competition consist of Elementary school grades 1-6; Middle School, grades 6-8, High School grades 9-12; Family (immediate family members/home schooled; College Age, Freelance, Business; and Professional – a person employed by any food service organization. All applications must be received by Thursday, November 9th and set-up for the cookie houses is on Friday, Nov. 17th from noon to 3 pm, so the houses can be displayed on Friday & Saturday, Nov. 17-18th. To obtain entry forms, please visit prideinsaginaw.org.
Mackenzie Bethune is presently a student intern working with Positive Results in Downtown Saginaw, and emphasizes the positive attributes that Holidays in the Heart of the City brings for the community. “I’ve been going to this event since high school and I love to take friends not from this area to this event,” she notes. “Many people are kind of skeptical, but I always tell them it’s a super-fun event and a great way to kick off the holidays. People I bring and introduce to this event are never disappointed.”
For the 40th Annual Christmas Parade that starts at 11:00 AM on Saturday, November 18th, this year’s theme is Christmas in the Neighborhood and the Grand Marshall will be Saginaw Mayor Dennis Browning.
With nearly 50 to 70 floats anticipated, marching bands, drill teams, costumed characters and Santa on hand, parade emcees will consist of Alana Holland and Bryan Bachman from WNEM-TV5. “We’ve changed the line-up area this year where we begin the parade,” notes Jeanne. “In the past we’ve always started at Jefferson and E. Genesee, but this year we will start at Johnson & North Washington because that way we’ll be able to go by the different businesses on Washington and also put our viewing stand in Morley Plaza.
Other activities scheduled for Saturday after the parade include a Christmas Party at the Castle Museum with Santa and Children’s’ activities from Noon to 4 PM; Free Christmas Stories & a Puppet Show at Hoyt Library at 2 PM; the Cookie House Competition continuing at the Andersen Enrichment Center, the Saginaw Farmer’s Market Holiday Market, which will also be at Andersen Enrichment Center from 10 AM to 1 PM, and the Saginaw Eddy Concert Band Christmas Performance at The Dow Event Center Heritage Theatre at 7:30 PM.
“It is very gratifying to work at bringing so many different groups and sponsors together for this special annual holiday celebration,” concludes Kathy. “This is truly a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic event that draws thousands of people from throughout the state of Michigan together to celebrate the spirit of the season with such a glittering array of seasonal events and talent. It lights that ember of the holiday glow and is a magnificent way to truly ignite the holiday spirit.”