Thrill on the Hill returns to Buchanan

Published 5:29 pm Thursday, January 2, 2014

Tubing at Thrill on the Hill. Leader file photo

Tubing at Thrill on the Hill. Leader file photo

What do you do when you have a very big hill that runs right through the middle of town and a very long winter full of ice and snow? Most towns would respond to this situation with a fleet of salt trucks and snow plows.

But that’s not what Buchanan, Mich. is doing—at least not on the weekend of Jan.  24 and 25, 2014. The town’s response is to close down the road, build a big ramp on Front St., call out the fire department to ice down the hill, and invite folks to come tubing for the “Thrill on the Hill.”

“This will be the third year for it,” said Bill Marx, Buchanan’s city manager. “Every year, we’ve learned a little bit on how to make it better.”

Last year’s Thrill on the Hill drew nearly 2,000 people to downtown Buchanan for tubing and other types of winter fun. Organizers hope to make the event even bigger and better for 2014 by enhancing last year’s activities and by adding new ones.

“This year, we are adding to the height of the ramp,” Marx explained. “We’re going to build it up about another 4 to 5 feet taller. That will give us more of that ‘oomph,’ a little bit more of a thrill going down the hill, and we plan to ice the hill this year.”

Visitors to the Thrill on the Hill do not have to worry about lugging sleds around town that weekend.

“They don’t bring their own sleds,” Marx explained. “For safety, everybody’s got the same type of sled. There’s no rough corners to hit anybody.”

The event starts at 6 p.m. on Friday evening, Jan. 24, with tubing runs until 9 p.m. Then, from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m., the Midnight Run will be taking place, giving adults a chance to get out and have fun sledding on their own. Finally, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, there will be more tubing available for the whole family.

Tubing isn’t the only activity that will be offered that weekend.

“We’re really trying to expand the idea of the ‘thrill,’ said Juli O’Bryant, city treasurer. “For the kids, it’s the Little Thrill. For people who may not want to tube, we’re going to have DJ Ron Cornelius and the music, dancing and warming stations. Smoke Family Vision is going to have the snowman contest. There’s going to be s’mores, a play area for the kids and the Burrr Cave.”

The “Little Thrill” will be set up at the intersection of Redbud and Front Streets. Activities there will include the “Burrr Cave,” a tunnel system that kids can climb through, a smaller sledding hill, and many other activities. Costumed characters, including Frosty, Rudolph and Pete the Penguin, will be on hand to keep the crowd entertained.

“It was designed for the kids who were too small to hit the ramp,” Marx said. “It’s relatively small, but the kids had a great time. Parents had a great time, too. We had volunteers working with the kids for safety.”

“The Moose Lodge is open for a family warming center. They can go in there and get some food—hot dogs and hot cocoa,” said Marx. “The Legion is doing something similar.”

The Midnight Run is another highlight of the event.

“We want to enhance the Midnight Run. That was something that kind of crept up on us. We thought we would have some people show up at 11 o’clock and want to sled until 1 a.m.,” Marx said.  “It’s mainly for adults, and we turned around, and there were 500 kids that had shown up—college kids, it was a party!”

“We had a great time,” said Marx. “Our local watering holes were crowded that night. The Legion, the Moose, the bar downtown. They were very happy.”

As Marx pointed out, “It’s not often that we get to go down one of the main streets in town on a tube!”

“This is something you’re not going to be able to do anywhere else,” agreed Debra Patzer, administrative assistant with the city of Buchanan.

“There is literally nothing else going on that weekend in southwest Michigan and Michiana,” said Randy Hendrixson, executive director at the Buchanan Area Chamber of Commerce.

And, according to the organizers, the cost to attend Thrill on the Hill is quite reasonable, with one-day wristbands costing $3 for the regular Friday and Saturday sledding sessions and $5 each for the Midnight Run event.

“It’s not our goal to make a profit, and for $3, you can spend all day here. You get your dollar’s worth here. That’s for sure,” said Marx.

Wristbands are on sale now at the Buchanan City Hall and at the Buchanan Area Chamber of Commerce Office. More information on the weekend’s schedule can be obtained by calling Deb Patzer at the City Hall at (269) 695-3844 or by visiting the Chamber’s calendar of events at

“It’s fun for us putting it together and then working it. It’s fun to see the people coming and enjoying themselves,” said Patzer. “The kids are excited, the parents are there taking their pictures, and the music is going. It’s just a fun time, and that’s the whole point.”