Santa to greet families indoors at Wood FirePublished 9:29am Thursday, November 5, 2009
As American short-story writer and essayist Washington Irving said, “Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart” and, in that spirit, Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital for the fourth consecutive year has stepped forward to provide a major funding boost to one of southwestern Michigan’s largest holiday events – the Dowagiac Candle-light Christmas Parade.
As the Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce puts the finishing touches on its Old-Fashioned Christmas Celebration, which is centered around its magnificent candle-light parade, event coordinators Wednesday announced receipt of a $2,000 corporate donation from Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital that will help defray the cost of this year’s $6,500 two-part community celebration that opens in mid-November.
Similar to a fairytale, the sights and sounds of the yuletide season will soon unfold before the faces of anxious, bright-eyed children as the Dowagiac Old-Fashioned Christmas Celebration returns to historic Dowagiac with its Christmas Open House Weekend, Nov. 20-22, and its 100-unit Candle-light Christmas Parade, which takes to the streets on Friday, Dec. 4.
“We are pleased to announce the receipt of this major corporate donation, as we also extend our heartfelt appreciation to the officials of Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital and to this year’s five corporate donors,” said Vickie Phillipson, event coordinator and program director of the Chamber of Commerce and the Dowagiac Downtown Development Authority.
Having swelled in recent years to more than 100 marching and motorized units, the Dowagiac Christmas parade is said to be one of southwestern Michigan’s largest lighted parades.
Spectators typically line the sidewalks downtown community five shoulders deep along the parade route that ushers in an Old-World Victorian Santa and marching and motorized units representing schools, churches and community organizations from Dowagiac and surrounding communities.
“Christmas, among many things, is a time of hope; perhaps even a brief respite from some of the cares and concerns that we face every day,” noted Joy A. Strand administrator and chief operating officer of Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital. “While Christmas is a wonderful time every year, the hope, the joy and the cheer that Christmas can bring are certainly much needed this year.
“That is why Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital has chosen once again to be the major sponsor of the 2009 Dowagiac Christmas parade,” Strand said. “It is our hope that this sponsorship not only demonstrates our thanks for the community support we continue to receive, but also in some small way contributes to the hope, the joy and the cheer of the people who we stand ready to serve.”
“Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital and Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce, as host of the 2009 celebration, along with our five corporate sponsors, invite families from southwestern Michigan and northern Indiana to gather together friends and family, as they enjoy our Grand Old City during the yuletide season,” Phillipson said.
In addition to the hospital, corporate sponsors of the event’s Nov. 20-22 Open House Weekend and parade night are: Matthew Cripe Dental P.C., Dr. Charles Burling and Dr. Jon Gillesby, Family Fare and Spartan Stores, Dowagiac Area Federal Credit Union and Wood Fire Italian Trattoria.
For the second consecutive year, the Christmas Open House event in mid-November has been expanded to the full weekend, as participating shop owners offer special holiday pricing beginning Friday, Nov. 20, as they also extend their normal business hours that Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Participating stores will also be open Sunday, Nov. 22, from noon to 4 p.m.
Reminiscent of the role the historic Dowagiac train depot played in the early development of the community, the marketing look of this year’s celebration is again built around a bright red and green train, which organizers are calling “The Holiday Express.”
Phillipson said shoppers will have the opportunity Open House Weekend to participate in the second annual Holiday Express Scavenger Hunt and enter the annual Christmas drawing at participating locations, where Holiday Express signage is on display.
The two retail events will award more than $300 in Universal Dowagiac Gift Certificates to shoppers that weekend.
This year, 12 shoppers will receive gift cards valued between $25 and $30.
Saturday morning events Nov. 21 open at Dowagiac Union High School, where Theta Mu Sorority will host its annual holiday craft show from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
New this year, family activities on Saturday will get underway at an earlier time, at 10 a.m., and will be held at two indoor locations, as well as at their traditional setting in and around the Beckwith Park.
“As a means to provide families with a warm and comfortable setting in which children can meet with our Old-World Santa, Wood Fire Italian Trattoria has graciously allowed us to use its Pompeii Room,” Phillipson said. Located downtown across the street from Beckwith Park, our true-to-life Santa and his elf will greet families within the elegant indoor setting of Wood Fire, where children will receive a Christmas coloring book and can sign up to win one of two giant gift baskets of toys, plus the chance to ride with Kris Kringle in the Dec. 4 Candle-light Christmas Parade.”
“We are also pleased to again host Anna Wilinski, a children’s performer from the Kalamazoo area, who will portray one of Santa’s elves, ” Phillipson said. “In recent years, Anna has been a close competitor to Santa in popularity. Children enjoy watching Anna as she ties red- and green-colored balloons into giant-sized balloon-tied candy canes they can take home with them.”
Conveniently located across the street at Beckwith Park, outdoor holiday entertainment beneath the Haggin-Wimberley Bandstand features choir students from Dowagiac schools, performing from 10 to 11:30 a.m. under the direction of Jeff Robinson.
On Beeson Street, holiday dance performances will be presented from 11:30 to 12:30, featuring Positively Dance and then Encore Dance Company.
Under the direction of C.J. Brooks, from 12:30 to 2 p.m., brass and jazz ensemble musicians from Dowagiac schools will present favorite Christmas classics.
Phillipson said an interactive children’s exhibit, featuring Holly, a reindeer of Alaskan descent from Country Reindeer Farm in Centreville, will also be situated at Beckwith Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., during which time horse-drawn carriage rides will be presented by John and Pat Touse of Constantine.
Located this year at Dowagiac District Library, children are invited to attend a holiday storytime and crafts workshop, hosted by library staff from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Families may come and go as they please, as they also attend the new puppet show downtown, hosted on Front Street by Puppet Ministries of First Christian Church.
While downtown families can enjoy hot chocolate and coffee at the sidewalk booth of Caruso’s Candy Kitchen and something sweet from the sidewalk booth of Miss Kathy’s School of Dance, which will be located at the park.
Phillipson said families are encouraged to bring cameras with them.
She also noted with downtown activities opening at an earlier time, family events this year will conclude at 2 p.m. on Saturday
Dowagiac’s two-part holiday celebration returns in early December, as the lighted parade takes to the streets on Friday, Dec. 4, also at an earlier time at 7 p.m.
Pre-parade entertainment begins at 6:30 p.m. at Main and Front streets, where the elevated viewing stage for the Master of Ceremonies will be located.
To allow for proper planning, organizations and businesses that would still like to sign up for the Candle-light Christmas Parade can still do so through next Wednesday.
To sign up for the parade or to receive a brochure of holiday events, call the Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce at (269) 782-8212.