Holiday traditions light up Southwest Michigan

Published 11:37 am Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Light up the Bluff in St. Joseph, Mich. is one of the many annual lighting ceremonies is Southwest Michigan. Photo submitted by Joshua Nowicki

Light up the Bluff in St. Joseph, Mich. is one of the many annual lighting ceremonies is Southwest Michigan. Photo submitted by Joshua Nowicki

One sign that heralds the approach of Christmas each year is the lighting of the community Christmas trees in towns and cities throughout Michiana. From South Bend, Ind., to Watervliet, Mich., the breaker switches are being flipped on, one by one, filling the chilly night air with the cheerful twinkle of brightly colored lights.

“For us, the lighting of the lights on the bluff is the kick-off to our family’s Christmas season,” said Christopher Laurent, a resident of downtown St. Joseph, Mich. “After the lights are turned on, that’s when we really feel like it’s Christmastime. We start decorating our house and our Christmas tree after that happens.”

Laurent is referring to one of the largest and longest-lasting light and music displays in Southwest Michigan, St. Joseph’s widely-anticipated “Light Up the Bluff.”

Arranged by the City of St. Joseph and sponsored by the St. Joseph Improvement Association, the celebration takes place in Lake Bluff Park on Lake Blvd. The festivities will begin at 6 p.m. on Dec. 6, with the St. Joseph High School Choir singing Christmas carols. At 6:30, the mayor will be flipping the switch for both the Christmas tree and the walkway of lights, which stretches nearly one-half mile along the top of the bluff. Accompanying the lights will be Christmas songs that play through speakers placed at intervals along the walkway.

“The abundance of lights and the variety is something special. There are the arches that you can walk through, as well as polar bears and all kinds of other displays, as well as the community Christmas tree,” said Jill Stone, executive director of St. Joseph Today. “You can drive through it, too, and because it’s downtown, after you see the lights, you can go to the Silver Beach Carousel, go out to dinner, go shopping and make a special evening of it.”

The organizers of the event have also planned some unique activities for visitors to enjoy directly after the lights are lit on Dec. 6. Dec. 7 will be a festive day in downtown St. Joseph, too.

“Following the tree lighting, visitors can stroll downtown and enjoy the Second Annual Live Mannequins,” Stone said. “Dozens of community volunteers will pose perfectly still in participating store windows from 7 to 8:30 p.m. All ages will have fun seeing their favorite holiday stories, movies and songs depicted in the scenes.”

On Saturday, the 15th Annual Reindog Parade will begin at 4 p.m. Pets and their owners dress up in holiday costumes, and a number of featured parade guests will also be participating, including Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Santa will then available to meet children at his house at the corner of State and Pleasant Streets until 7 p.m. He will also be there to hear children’s wish-lists until Dec. 22, on Thursdays and Fridays from 4 to 6 p.m., Saturdays from 12 to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 12 to 3 p.m.

This coming weekend, there will be many other community lights festivals that residents and tourists can attend as well, including the Bridgman Holiday Village, Christmas in the Village of Baroda and the Dowagiac Candle-light Parade. More information on those and other holiday events can be found in this week’s OTW calendar, “What’s Happening.”

And, if visitors should happen to miss St. Joseph’s “Light Up the Bluff” celebration this weekend, there is no cause for dismay.

“The music and lights show continues through Dec. 31st,” Stone said. “While the music stops on Dec. 31st, the lights will stay on through Feb. 15th to offer that romantic walking experience all the way up through Valentine’s Day. And, because it’s on the bluff, you also get the view of the lake. The lights will be on from 6 to 10 p.m. every night for about two months.”