Seeking holiday joy? Residents and visitors may find some joy on Friday, Nov. 27, in downtown Howell at the Fantasy of Lights. This year’s parade theme is “Joy to Howell!”
Marking the traditional arrival of the holiday season in Howell for 32 years, the spectacular nighttime parade attracts more than 30,000 spectators each year. Additional activities include entertainment, the Fantasy 5K run, Christmas Alley, seasonal refreshments, 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 and share the joy.”
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 Blue Care Network of Michigan and Citizens Insurance.
Floats, marching bands and horses put on a show
Guests will see nearly 40 parade entries including a celebration with hot-air balloons, “Cheers to Howell,” “Frozen” fun, and show horses. Alaskan Malamutes and Bernese Mountain dogs’ coats will shine in Christmas colors. Holiday favorites like marching bands, Toys for Tots and Santa’s sleigh from the Howell Area Fire Department complete the parade line-up.
“Perhaps the most joyful part of the parade is watching our guests enjoy the many parade entries,” Tokan said. “The brightly-lit floats, plus the decorated trees and beautiful light posts along the parade route make the Fantasy of Lights a spectacular sight.”
Santa and his reindeer bring joy to children
Children will be able to share their wish list with Santa as he visits with them before the parade from 4-5:30 p.m. in Christmas Alley, otherwise known throughout the year as State Street. 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 Bath Planet.
In addition, Christmas Alley will feature holiday crafts and seasonal refreshments from 4-8:30 p.m. Children can make a craft provided by the Howell Conference and Nature Center.
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.
“Running in the Fantasy 5K is a healthy way to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday,” said Tokan. “Runners are cheered on by thousands who line the parade route. We encourage runners to dress up in festive attire.”
Runners can pre-register at howellfantasy5K.com. Cost of the run is $25 before 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 23 and late registration is $30. Registration includes a Fantasy 5K brandana and lighted gift. Awards will also be given to top finishers in the 5K.
Runners who pick up their race materials on Wednesday, Nov. 25 at the Howell chamber, located at 123 E. Washington St., can enjoy a chair massage from TAB Massage and Fitness from 1-6 p.m.
The Fantasy 5K is a certified course endorsed by the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports, and the Michigan Fitness Foundation through the Pure Michigan FITness Series endorsement program. The course is also certified as a 5K run by USA Track & Field.
Champion Automotive Group is the platinum sponsor of the Fantasy 5K. Gold sponsor is Hartland Insurance Agency. Silver sponsors are TAB Massage and Fitness and Chemung Hills Golf Club. Bronze sponsors are the Dr. Paul Thielking Family, Anytime Fitness, Beauchamp Water Treatment & Supply, Livingston County Habitat for Humanity, Advanced Water Treatment, Two Men and a Truck, Mt. Brighton, Probility Therapy Services, Advanced Disposal, Walmart, and Harry & David.
Parade honors Les Rodwell as Grand Marshal
Rodwell has gone from chairing the Fantasy of Lights to leading it as this year’s Grand Marshal. It’s an honor that recognizes the many hours he’s given as a tireless volunteer for this and many other community events, as well as his retirement earlier this year from the Howell Area Fire Department.
“I am very excited about being the Grand Marshal for the 2015 Fantasy of Lights Parade,” Rodwell said. “I would like to give my thanks to the committee for bestowing this honor on me, from Fire Marshal to Grand Marshal. I am looking forward to celebrating this event for the community that I have supported.”
“At the chamber, we’ve been privileged to work closely with him at our special events such as the Livingston County Home & Garden Show, Michigan Challenge Balloonfest and Fantasy of Lights,” said Pat Convery, president of the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce. “This year, he can just sit back at Fantasy of Lights and enjoy his trip along the parade route.”
In addition to the Grand Marshal entry, the Fantasy of Lights Parade snow court is comprised of six area youths from Make-A-Wish Michigan. The snow court float is designed by Prevo Trucking.
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 second annual Downtown Development Authority’s 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 www.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.