This year’s Fantasy of Lights Parade — the most sparkling parade anywhere — is an even bigger deal in my household this year. You see, my son, Will, will be part of the parade as a member of the Howell Highlander Way Middle School marching band.
Will’s playing the sleigh bells.
He’s ready for the big event, too. We bought a Santa hat yesterday, and picked up a string of battery-powered Christmas lights a few weeks ago. He’s been practicing the sleigh bells, too, much to the chagrin of Ted the Labradoodle, who hides behind a chair when the jingling begins.
If you’ve never been to the Fantasy of Lights Parade, now’s your chance to see what draws tens of thousands of spectators to downtown Howell every year: The parade is a feast for the eyes.
The parade kicks off at 7 p.m. at the Citizens Insurance Co. of America building in downtown Howell at the area of Grand River Avenue, Byron Road and George Street. Parade units assemble in both Citizen’s parking lots, located on the north and south sides of Grand River Avenue.
The parade moves east on Grand River Avenue before ending at Elm Street.
There will be the floats, of course, and music provided by area marching bands, with special activities throughout downtown Howell during the day. There will also be something like several hundred thousand lights illuminating the parade route.
It’s a beautiful sight, to be sure.
“We’re inviting everyone to be a part of this day-after-Thanksgiving tradition in Howell,” said Susan Lundin, who coordinates the event for the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce.
In order to be part of the parade, a float must have at least 5,000 lights.
Just before the parade, stepping off at 6 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Howell, is the Fantasy 5K run. This year, over a thousand runners are expected.
It’s a fun event in which a lot of the runners dress in holiday attire and wear lights.
This year’s parade honors Jack LaBelle, Michigan’s longest serving county commissioner, and his wife, Beverly. The couple, from Brighton, is serving as the parade’s grand marshals, a nod to their long-time work in Livingston County.
The Fantasy of Lights Snow Court features five area kids from the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
And, then, of course, everyone along the parade route gets to welcome Santa.
If you’re at the parade when the Highlander Way Middle School marching band passes by, look for one of the kids with the sleigh bells, the one wearing a Santa hat, and who’s lit up with white and multi-colored lights.
That’s my boy!