Chamber, Ramsdell partner for Sleighbell events

The 28th annual Victorian Sleighbell Parade and Old Christmas Weekend offered events for all ages from Thursday morning to Sunday afternoon, highlighted by Saturday's Sleighbell Parade down River Street. (News Advocate staff)

The 28th annual Victorian Sleighbell Parade and Old Christmas Weekend offered events for all ages from Thursday morning to Sunday afternoon, highlighted by Saturday’s Sleighbell Parade down River Street. (News Advocate staff)

MANISTEE — Nearly months away from the giving season, community members are gearing up to carry on the tradition of the annual December Victorian Sleighbell Parade and Old Christmas Weekend in Manistee.

This year, the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce and the Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts (RRCA) are joining efforts to light up the weekend together by holding a fun, charity filled weekend for the community.

Festivities will run from Nov. 30 through Dec. 3.

Xavier Verna, RRCA executive director, said Sleighbell at the Ramsdell will feature many events, but for the first time ever the organizations are teaming up with numerous local charities.

“This is the first time we have partnered with the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce,” Verna said. “In the past, a space was rented for the Festival of Trees. This is the first true collaboration between both organizations.”

The chamber will host its annual Festival of Trees on Dec. 1 and Dec. 2 in the Ramsdell Ballroom, where a plethora of decorative whimsical and humorous themed trees will be on display. Visitors will be able to support their favorite tree by voting with canned goods, pet supplies and food, donated to the Salvation Army and Homeward Bound Animal Shelter.

The Festival of Trees has been a tradition since 2002.

“This family friendly event takes place in the historic Ramsdell Ballroom which transforms beautifully decorated trees and decor into pure holiday magic,” said Sherri Wehrmeister, who is on the chamber board. “There are several businesses, organizations and individuals that plan and create one-of-a-kind pieces that are available to bid on during the silent auction.”

Throughout the entire weekend, people also can donate an unwrapped gift for Toys for Tots or Gifts for Teens through FiveCAP, and gain an entry to win a drone donated by Filer Credit Union.

In addition, Wehrmeister said a new Friday event called “Kids and KupKakes” will feature culinary artist Connie Watson, with proceeds donated to the Armory Youth Project.

Returning artist Tami Roth will hold two painting sessions on the balcony on Saturday, with proceeds donated to both the Manistee County Council on Aging and the Armory Youth Project.

“In the spirit of giving, both organizations are looking to make more of an impact on local charities and provide a unique experience for the whole community,” Wehrmeister said. “If you’ve never attended before, this would be the year to get there.”

Also this year, the RRCA will present a tuneful rendition of “A Christmas Carol” with shows from Nov. 30 until Dec. 3, both written and directed by Rick Plummer. From Ebenezer Scrooge or Tiny Tim, the characters will take the stage offering a chance for the community to join in the holiday classic.

Each night, part of the proceeds from the show will be donated to a local charity, which include Love INC, Homeward Bound Animal Shelter, the county-wide food pantries and FiveCAP.

“We felt that by partnering with the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce, we could increase our reach and involve more charities,” Verna said. “Each night the RRCA has a show, we dedicate it to a local charity and ask for donations to be made.”

Performing on Saturday for “A Tuneful Christmas Carol,” guest star Heather Kendrick, Miss Michigan, will take the stage with her talent as a violinist.

Both the chamber and RRCA hope to welcome newcomers to the festive weekend, as the organizations start marketing the efforts. The partnership, Verna said, will embody the true meaning of the holiday.

“We know this weekend is big for Manistee, and we hope this tradition will continue for years to come,” Verna said. “I think the partnerships with the local charities and pairing them with events at the Ramsdell brings more attention to their efforts. The event embodies the spirit of giving and it’s truly small town living at its best.

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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