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Fantasy of Lights celebrates 30 years in downtown Howell the day after Thanksgiving


The annual Fantasy of Lights Parade kicks off the holiday season in Livingston County.

Shining lights, spirited sprinters, seeing Santa and shopping are all part of the celebration at the Fantasy of Lights on Friday, Nov. 29.

Marking the traditional arrival of the holiday season in Howell, the spectacular nighttime parade has attracted more than 30,000 spectators. Additional activities include entertainment, the Fantasy 5K run, Christmas Alley, cookie decorating, seasonal refreshments, live reindeer and visits with Santa.

“Finishing touches are being put on floats, runners are training for the 5K, Santa is checking his list and merchants are welcoming holiday shoppers,” said Michelle Tokan, Fantasy of Lights director. “The annual Fantasy of Lights is truly a holiday gift to this community. The committee has done a wonderful job, and attending this event continues to be on the holiday wish list for thousands of families.”

The fantasy fun begins at 4 p.m. followed by the Fantasy 5K Run at 6 and the parade at 7.

The annual Fantasy of Lights is hosted by the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Major sponsor is Cobb-Hall Insurance. Supporting sponsors are Blue Care Network of Michigan and Citizens Insurance.

FOLphoto2Floats, marching bands, canines and equines delight parade goers
Guests will see more than 40 entries in the parade including seven animal entries including a canine nativity and show horses all dressed up for the night. Holiday favorites like marching bands, Toys for Tots and Santa’s sleigh from the Howell Area Fire Department complete the parade line-up.

“It’s the most wonderful day of the year, with parade entries glowing, said Tokan about the event.

Santa and his reindeer
Have you been good this year? Let Santa know as he visits with children before the parade from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in Christmas Alley, otherwise known throughout the year as State Street. Of course, all will have a chance to welcome Santa to Howell as he rides in his float at the end of the parade. Santa will also light the city’s Christmas tree together with the Grand Marshal.

Need more holiday running around?
Run or cheer on the runners in the Fantasy 5K Run, a nighttime run down Grand River in downtown Howell. As part of the pre-parade festivities, the run starts at 6 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church.

The Fantasy 5K is endorsed by the State of Michigan Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and is officially certified as a 5K run by USA Track & Field.

Champion Automotive Group is the platinum sponsor of the Fantasy 5K. Gold sponsor is Hartland Insurance Agency. Silver sponsors are Fowlerville Physical Therapy Specialists and Chemung Hills Golf Club & Banquet Center. Bronze sponsors are Dr. Paul “Sparky” Thielking, Caretel Inns of Brighton, Liberty Tax Service, Simply Fresh Market, Mt. Brighton, Duncan Chiropractic Group and TAB massage and fitness.

“Howell is a community that loves its 5K runs, and the Fantasy 5K is one of the most popular for local and out-of-town runners,” said Tokan. “Many of the runners dress up in their favorite holiday attire which adds to the festivities.”

Those who still wish to run in the 5K can register online at www.howellfantasy5K.com until 9 a.m. Friday, at the chamber Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or at the church on Friday starting at 9 a.m.

Parade honors community leaders and special stars                                                     
George Moses, longtime community supporter, will serve as this year’s grand marshal. He will hold a place of honor in the parade as he rides on a vehicle from Bob Maxey Ford of Howell.

Moses has been an integral part of the Fantasy of Lights festivities for years. He’s chronicled the event that kicks off the holiday season in Livingston County by taking photos before video-taping the parade from the reviewing stand.

“It’s my favorite parade,” Moses said. “I love volunteering at it.  What a great honor,” he added. “I didn’t have to think for a micro-second about it. It’s going to be a blast.”

“George has been such a champion of the Fantasy of Lights,” said Pat Convery, president of the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce. “Beyond that, he is a tireless community volunteer in so many ways.”

In addition to the Grand Marshal entry, the Fantasy of Lights Parade snow court is comprised of five area youths from Make-A-Wish Michigan. Many of these children and families would love to share their story. Please let us know, and we will put you in touch with a family. Contact Leah Borst, communications manager for Make-A-Wish Michigan at lborst@michiganwish.org or 734.994.8620. The snow court float is designed by Prevo Trucking.

Christmas Alley, cookie decorating and holiday happenings                                                 
Visitors to Howell will enjoy other downtown holiday attractions during Fantasy weekend and the upcoming holiday season.

Christmas Alley, located on State Street, will be filled with holiday crafts and seasonal refreshments from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Christmas Alley also features a kid’s cookie decorating booth, sponsored by VG’s Food Center.

The Livingston Arts Council will open The Opera House for tours and host a Fantasy of Art from 3 – 10 p.m. The event features handmade paintings, jewelry, pottery, holiday cards and more available for sale Friday and throughout the weekend. The Opera House is located at the corner of Walnut Street and Grand River Avenue.

Residents and visitors can also enjoy free Victorian horse-drawn carriage rides through the streets of downtown Howell every Saturday before Christmas, beginning Fantasy weekend, courtesy of First National Bank. The carriages will depart from the bank’s parking lot at the corner of Michigan and Grand River avenues.

Holiday in the Park at the Howell City Park will be lined with decorated trees. Opening festivities are Friday, Dec. 6 from 6 – 8 p.m. Drive through the park December 6 -25 from 6 – 9  p.m. Cost is $5 per vehicle.

For more information, contact the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce at 517.546.3920 or visit howell.org.

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