Thousands take part in 24th annual Mount Pleasant Christmas Celebration
The Mount Pleasant Christmas Celebration kicked off on Friday, Dec. 1 with the city's official tree lighting. The annual holiday event continued on Saturday, Dec. 2 with a variety of events, including a Lighted Christmas Parade.
Downtown Development Director Michelle Sponseller said Mount Pleasant's annual holiday event is the largest and most expensive event put on by the city. Festivities require a budget exceeding $22,500 and planning begins immediately after the previous one ends.
"This event proves our city has a celebration that is the perfect blend of small town charm and big city energy," Sponseller said.
The celebration has taken place downtown for 24 years. Sponseller said preparations are already being made for the event's 25th anniversary next year.
She said the weekend required more than 100 volunteers and assistance from a majority of downtown businesses and city employees.
Art Reach of Mid Michigan provided children's crafts and served as a Santa Workshop, while Max & Emily's Eatery provided free cookie decorating at the same time.
"We really do this all for the kids, the most magical part is during the parade," Sponseller said. "When all of us are exhausted and trying to pull together any energy we have left for a strong finish-to see the smiles and awe on those kids' faces makes the hard, tireless work worth it."
Vice Mayor Allison Quast-Lents said she remembers attending holiday festivities downtown even as a young girl.
"It's definitely one of my favorites," Qaust-Lents said. "I have been waiting for it for weeks."
Melinda Salchert, special events coordinator for the City, said the parade attracts an audience exceeding 8,000 members from throughout Isabella County.
Hundreds of mascots, individuals and inflatables were showcased during the parade.
Lake Ann senior Megan Perry said she was amazed by the turnout of the event.
"I was so surprised to see the entire city out here," Perry said, "It is so cool to see all of the families and all of the dogs and to meet the world outside of the university."
She said the event perfectly embodied the joy and happiness she associates with the winter holidays.
"All of the lights were very neat, and you can't help but appreciate them bringing loved ones together," she said.
Floats lined up on Main St. and commenced on Broadway St. The parade was lead by grand marshals, a youth team from Max & Emily's People Helping People Program. The group preserves county-wide initiative offering meals to patrons of the Isabella Community Soup Kitchen and Isabella County Restoration House.
Floats were designed and driven by local businesses, organizations and residents.
Marja Nothstine, a Mount Pleasant native, decided to spearhead a float for the first time after attending the parade with her family for more than 10 years.
Nothstine began working on the float at 6 a.m. that day. She decorated a trailer with holiday tree lights and wire-made trees collected in her storage over the decades. She said she added a special celebratory touch to the trailer by filling it with eight of her grandchildren to wave to and cheer up the crowd.
Other parade floats were provided by Central Michigan Free Methodist Church, Keepsake Quilts, Gates Drilling and Services, the Laurels nursing home and X-Treme club soccer teams.
Resident Shannon Patrick has been attending the parade for more than two decades and said it captures the high quality of life that exists in the city.
"It is truly and wildly remarkable what a town of only a little over 26,000 can pull of an event of this magnitude so well," he said. "By giving us a real sense of community and values we can be reminded of spirit and togetherness to give us hope through the winter."
Other events on Saturday included the Mount Pleasant Road Runners for a "Jingle All the Way 5K" run, a flying pancake breakfast with Santa and live reindeer and craft stations.
Young actors in Friends of the Broadway enjoyed glimpses of the parade between performances of "A Charlie Brown Christmas."
Performers were of ages 4-15 from throughout Isabella County. Preparation for the show began in the beginning of November after a brief series of auditions.
Lisa Sims, the organization's treasurer, said expenses to put on the show reached $5,000.
"Our royalties are our biggest expenses, which are the fees and licensing for the show," Sims said. Royalties are followed by program booklet production, costumes, makeup and stage lighting and effects.
The performance was the most the 16th installment of the Christmas Theater Series presented annually.
Sims said their projected revenue is $10,000, with attendance averaging 300 viewers a night. Proceeds will go towards preserving the Broadway Theater.
Sims and Director Cynthia Kilmer both said the production's backdrops and props are credited to community volunteers and parents.
"We are all volunteers, from the Board of Directors down to the people sweeping our floors," Sims said. "We all volunteered and none of us are paid staff and I am very thankful and very blessed we have such a wonderful group of people that are invested in the theater and want to see it continue to thrive."
Kilmer said the show is a big family event, where grandparents can be seen working the box office. She said parents spend hours backstage moving sets, fixing costumes and operating the special effects featured in the show.