Ready to ring in the holiday season? Residents and visitors can join in the merriment on Friday, Nov. 24, in downtown Howell at the Fantasy of Lights. This year’s parade theme is “All is Bright.”
Marking the traditional arrival of the holiday season in Howell for 34 years, the spectacular nighttime parade attracts more than 25,000 spectators. Additional activities include entertainment, the Fantasy 5K run, Christmas Alley, live reindeer and visits with Santa.
“The Fantasy of Lights is a wonderful holiday tradition for many families,” said Michelle Tokan, Fantasy of Lights director. “We invite everyone to join us in downtown Howell as we start the celebration.”
The fantasy fun begins at 4 p.m. followed by the Fantasy 5K Run at 6 p.m. and the parade at 7 p.m.
The Fantasy of Lights is hosted by the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Major sponsor is Cobb-Hall Insurance. Supporting sponsors are DTE Energy Foundation, LOC Federal Credit Union and Citizens Insurance. The Willows at Howell sponsors the mayor’s horse and carriage.
Floats, marching bands and horses jingle in downtown Howell
Missing summer? Guests will see more than 40 entries including a decorated pontoon boat float, the Greenwood Farms Clydesdales, presented by Huron-Clinton Metroparks, motorcycles, trains, nativity scenes, legos, and dogs whose coats will shine in Christmas colors. Holiday favorites like marching bands and Santa’s sleigh from the Howell Area Fire Department complete the parade line-up.
Santa and his live reindeer want to hear your wish list
Families will be able to share their wishes with Santa in Christmas Alley, located on State Street. He will greet children starting at 4 p.m. before the Fantasy 5K and parade. At the end of the parade, Santa will light the city’s Christmas tree together with the Grand Marshal.
Santa and his reindeer are sponsored by Saint Joseph Mercy Livingston Hospital. The hospital will also have a teddy bear clinic in Christmas Alley. Children can bring their teddy bears for a check up, or pick up a teddy bear, quantities are limited, at the event.
With Santa watching, it might be a good time to get in the giving spirit. Howell Public Schools will have a Stuff the Bus food drive for Gleaners in Christmas Alley. Students will accept non-perishable food items and cash donations.
In addition, Christmas Alley will feature holiday family fun starting at 4 p.m. New this year are food trucks with restaurant-quality menu items Christmas Alley is sponsored by Power Home Remodeling Group.
Add the Fantasy 5K to your holiday fitness program
Run or cheer on the runners in the Fantasy 5K Run, a nighttime run down Grand River in downtown Howell. As part of the pre-parade festivities, the run starts at 6 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church.
“Runners are cheered on by thousands who line the parade route. We encourage them to dress up in festive attire,” said Tokan.
Pre-register for the run at howellfantasy5K.com. Cost is $30 before 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 20 and late registration is $35. Registration includes a Fantasy 5K T-shirt designed by Howell High School Senior Adrea Eskola and lighted Rudolph red noses. Awards will also be given to top finishers in the 5K.
Runners can pick up their race materials on Wednesday, Nov. 22 at the Howell chamber, located at 123 E. Washington St., from noon to 5 p.m. Onsite registration begins at noon on Friday, Nov. 24 at the church located at 323 W. Grand River in Howell.
The Fantasy 5K is a certified course endorsed by the Michigan Fitness Foundation. The course is also certified as a 5K run by USA Track & Field.
Champion Automotive Group is the platinum sponsor of the Fantasy 5K. Enhanced gold sponsor is St. John Providence, and gold sponsors are Hartland Insurance Agency and DTE Energy. Silver sponsors are Pepsi and Chemung Hills Golf Club. Bronze sponsors are Vista Springs, Beauchamp Water Treatment & Supply, Two Men and a Truck, Meijer, The WellBridge Group, Thai Summit, ProMotion Physical Therapy, Chem Trend, Howell Powersports, Jonna’s Market and Verizon.
Parade Grand Marshal Kathleen Zaenger helps make the area “bright”
As director of the Howell Carnegie District Library, the 2017 Grand Marshal of the Fantasy of Lights Parade has contributed to bright minds in the community.
After nearly four decades, she is retiring in December and has made many contributions. She is past President of the Michigan Library Association, is an active Howell Rotarian playing an integral part in Tour de Livingston, is involved in Walk for Warmth and Bowl for Kids’ Sake to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“Kathleen Zaenger is a leader in this community and a respected library professional throughout Michigan,” said Pat Convery, chamber president. “Her innovation, collaboration, knowledge and leadership has created a library that is the envy of many communities in the state and is a cornerstone of the City of Howell. After 38 years at the helm, she is retiring at the end of this year and will be greatly missed. We are delighted to honor her as Grand Marshal of the Fantasy of Lights Parade.”
Beautiful storefronts and holiday happenings in town
Visitors to Howell will enjoy other downtown holiday attractions during Fantasy weekend and the upcoming holiday season.
The fourth annual Downtown Development Authority’s Deck the Windows storefront decorating contest showcases decorated windows, shops, restaurants and businesses in the city. The promotion fosters a positive community spirit while kicking off the holiday season and is sponsored by Cobb-Hall Insurance. Guests can vote on their favorite window display at downtownhowell.org.
The Livingston Arts Council will open The Opera House for tours and host a Fantasy of Art from 3 to 10 p.m. The event features handmade paintings, jewelry, pottery, holiday cards and more available for sale Friday, and throughout the weekend. The Opera House is located at the corner of Walnut and Grand River.
For more information, contact the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce at 517.546.3920 or visit howell.org.