Candelight Parade Dec. 2

Published 5:16 pm Thursday, December 1, 2011

Much like the setting of a Dickens novel, one of southwestern Michigan’s largest Christmas parades is sure to transform Dowagiac and its turn-of-the-century storefronts  into a storybook-like setting this evening,  as this community’s holiday tree is set  ablaze in glistening lights and a town  crier, inspired by the Victorian-era,  signals the triumphant start to a magnificent procession of 110 holiday  units.

Holiday festivities begin at 6 p.m. Friday at Beckwith Park, downtown at the corner of Front and Beeson streets, where the community tree-lighting ceremony and pre-parade entertainment is presented.

Note that Front Street will be closed to motorists at 6 p.m.

Parade chairman Trish Brazo, a team leader for Huntington Bank and a member of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, announced Tuesday James Wierman will serve as this year’s grand marshal and will light the community’s evergreen at 6:30 p.m.

Brazo said the blue spruce that was donated several years ago to the City of Dowagiac by A-1 Expert Tree Service, which also serves as this community’s Hospice Tree of Remembrance, will be set ablaze in holiday lights.

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 stand shoulder-to-shoulder, lining the sidewalks, as the parade route ushers in an Old-World Victorian Santa and hundreds of marching and motorized units, representing schools, churches and organizations from Dowagiac and surrounding communities.

Lineup for the parade, which circles downtown, begins at 6 p.m. as James Torbet, the parade’s town crier, dressed in top hat and coattails, mingles with passersby on the sidewalk, distributing holiday cheer and candy canes to families.

Later that evening, the tolling sound of his handbell signals the start of the holiday procession and the return of the Old-World Victorian Santa. Families are invited to gather at Beckwith Park at 6 p.m. for pre-parade entertainment and a community sing-along.Brazo said the bell choir from First United Methodist Church will perform at 6:15 p.m.

Following the lighting of the tree at 6:30, the Dowagiac Church of Christ a cappella group will lead the community in Christmas carols.

Patrick Murphy, president of the Chamber of Commerce during the 1990s, along with Max Sala, will emcee the parade that steps off at 7 p.m. at Front and Main streets.

Accompanying St. Nicholas as Unit 109 in the parade will be 6-year-old Tess Collins and 6-year-old Zachary Baker, winners of Santa’s Gift Basket Drawing during Christmas Open House Weekend.

Brazo said City Hall and the historic train depot will be open Friday evening as a warming station for the public.

Hot chocolate will be sold by Caruso’s Candy Kitchen, as members of Positively Dance offer baked goods for sale.