Tree lighting kicks off annual Mount Pleasant Christmas Celebration
Downtown Mount Pleasant transformed into a holiday wonderland on Friday for the start of the city's annual Christmas Celebration.
The celebration officially began at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1 with the city's official tree lighting. The annual holiday event continues Dec. 2 with a variety of events, including a Lighted Christmas Parade at 6 p.m.
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. "Like as New York City has their Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting, this is our version of a grand Christmas kick off."
The Town Center, 101 North Main St., was filled by 6:20 p.m. with a caroling session directed by the competitive a cappella group, the Mountain Town Singers.
Mayor Kathy Ling counted down from 10 prior to the tree's official lighting.
Caitlin Campbell, 8, is visiting her grandmother, Mary Veit, in Mount Pleasant this weekend. While she lives in Alma, Campbell sings in the Sacred Heart Academy's Children's Choir and said she was enjoying the evening's carols, lights and visit from Santa Claus.
"Christmas is my favorite holiday," she said before mentioning that the line to see Santa was very long, with her wait lasting nearly 40 minutes.
The city reserved two live reindeer and a professional Santa from the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School in Midland.
Veit has been attending the tree lighting for more than 10 years.
"I think this event is wonderful," she said. "I love how much of a commodity it is to our community and it never fails at getting people together."
Mount Pleasant resident Cecilia Stevens waited in the Santa line with her husband and three children. She said her favorite part about the event is seeing all of the children react to the tree lighting and spending time with her family.
"This is our third year coming out for this event after living in California for a while," she said. "It's a small town but it reminds us of the street fairs and tree lightings we'd go to, surprisingly."
Businesses participated in the festivities with extended operation hours, deals and specials and live entertainment.
A cappella group Fish-n-Chips performed at 7 p.m. at the Art Reach of Mid Michigan, 111 E. Broadway St., and the Genesis Handbell Choir played at Isabella Bank, 139 E. Broadway St.
The Isabella Youth Chorale, Clare High School Jazz Band, Suzuki Music Studio and the Mount Pleasant High School Choir also made appearances throughout downtown.
Sophomores Samantha Mentus, Jessica Netzley and Rebecca Bruins came downtown for the first time after hearing about the event through mutual friends and Facebook.
"I really love the bright, yellow lights all alongside the streets and wrapped through the trees," said Netzely, a native of Cadillac. "This is all really exciting and a lot bigger and better than what any of us were expecting."
Mentus, a Laingsburg native, said the event embodied the community's beauty and friendliness along with holiday joy.
Bruins, of Holland, said the caroling before the lighting was the perfect top off to a perfect holiday celebration.
"It's really like the quote from the 'Elf' movie. 'The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear,'" she said.