Fantasy of Lights celebrates 31 years in downtown Howell the day after Thanksgiving
Bright lights and big stars are shining in Howell as the city gets ready to celebrate the Fantasy of Lights on Friday, Nov. 28.
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, seasonal refreshments, live reindeer and visits with Santa.
“Floats will be sparkling, music will be heard, runners will compete and Santa will be listening to children’s wishes,” said Michelle Tokan, Fantasy of Lights Director. “We invite everyone to Howell to join in the Christmas magic.”
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.
Floats, marching bands and dressed-up dogs delight parade goers
This year’s parade theme is Christmas – It’s a Grand Event! Guests will see more than 40 entries including a Christmas ball field float, Superman, a wonderful lighthouse float and a hooped-up float with a 1920’s glitz. Alaskan Malamutes and Bernese Mountain dogs’ coats will shine in Christmas colors. Holiday favorites like marching bands, Toys for Tots and Santa’s sleigh from the Howell Area Fire Department complete the parade line-up.
“Perhaps the most beautiful part of the parade is the lights. The brightly-lit floats, plus the decorated trees and beautiful light posts along the parade route make the Fantasy of Lights a spectacular sight,” said Tokan.
Santa and his reindeer
What presents are you hoping for under the Christmas tree? 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. At the end of the parade, Santa will light the city’s Christmas tree together with the Grand Marshals. Santa and his reindeer are sponsored by Independence Village of Brighton Valley.
In addition, Christmas Alley will be filled with holiday crafts and seasonal refreshments from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Christmas Alley is sponsored by OneMain Financial
Who’s ready for a good run?
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 Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports and the Michigan Fitness Foundation have endorsed the Fantasy 5K as a quality physical activity event through the Pure Michigan FITness Series endorsement program. The course is also 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 sponsor is Chemung Hills Golf Club. Bronze sponsors are the Thielking Family, Caretel Inns of Brighton, WellBridge of Brighton, WSC Action Home Health Care, WSC Academy, Beauchamp Water Treatment & Supply, Livingston County Habitat for Humanity, Mt. Brighton, Walmart and Vista Springs.
“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 https://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
Stars Melissa Gilbert and Timothy Busfield will serve as this year’s Grand Marshals. They will hold a place of honor in the parade and ride on a vehicle from Bob Maxey Ford of Howell.
Gilbert and Busfield have starred, directed and produced many television shows, movies and plays.
“We are so excited to be the Grand Marshals of this beautiful parade in our magical hometown,” said Gilbert. The couple moved to Howell, Mich. in 2013.
“We are honored to have Melissa and Tim as Grand Marshals of the Fantasy of Lights,” said Howell Area Chamber of Commerce President Pat Convery. “They have embraced the city of Howell as their hometown and have made many contributions to the community since they moved here.”
Gilbert talked about the Fantasy of Lights with WXYZ on Sunday. You can see the video by clicking here.
In addition to the Grand Marshal entry, the Fantasy of Lights Parade snow court is comprised of six area youths from Make-A-Wish Michigan. The snow court float is designed by Prevo Trucking.
Window shopping and holiday happenings
Visitors to Howell will enjoy other downtown holiday attractions during Fantasy weekend and the upcoming holiday season.
A new attraction is the Downtown Development Authority’s 2014 Deck the Windows Storefront Decorating Contest. The promotion fosters a positive community spirit while kicking off the holiday season and is sponsored by Cobb-Hall Insurance. Guests can vote on their favorite window display at www.downtownhowell.org. Voting is open until noon on Monday, Dec. 1.
The Livingston Arts Council will open The Opera House for tours and host a Fantasy of Art from 3 to 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 and Grand River.
For more information, contact the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce at 517.546.3920 or visit howell.org.