Victorian Sleighbell Parade & Old Christmas Weekend celebrates 30 years

The Manistee County Historical Museum has an exhibit open for the holidays called "A Victorian Christmas" that displays items from Manistee's Victorian era during this time of the year. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

The Manistee County Historical Museum has an exhibit open for the holidays called “A Victorian Christmas” that displays items from Manistee’s Victorian era during this time of the year. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — It’s the most wonderful time of the year: winter holidays are approaching and Manistee is gearing up for one of its most prominent festivals.

The traditional 30th annual Victorian Sleighbell Parade and Old Christmas Weekend, organized by a committee under the Manistee Downtown Development Authority, brings in a large crowd each year — including many out-of-town visitors.

The Glenn and Pat Lottie Art Exhibit will be open throughout the weekend in Hardy Hall at the Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts, and honors the late Pat Lottie through an extensive art collection. (Jane Bond/News Advocate)

The Glenn and Pat Lottie Art Exhibit will be open throughout the weekend in Hardy Hall at the Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts, and honors the late Pat Lottie through an extensive art collection. (Jane Bond/News Advocate)

Those who attend will step back in time, participating in one of Michigan’s most unique holiday festivals.

Rachel Brooks, Sleighbell chair, said this year’s festival, which will be held this weekend, is in the works to be the largest event lineup yet. Brooks said many surprises are in store for visitors.

“Last year, we believe we had the most people that we’ve ever had,” said Brooks. “At least 20,000 people came out to the parade.”

A staple of the festival is the Victorian Sleighbell Parade, which is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. The parade typically sees thousands of people, who all gather on River Street to watch Victorian holiday-themed displays from horse drawn entries, to elves on stilts, bagpipers and Victorian dressed carolers.

Last year, the parade had a record breaking number of entries.

At the end of the parade, draft horses pull a 30 foot Christmas tree down River Street, followed by a display of luminaries, carolers and the age-old tradition of lighting the tree.

“We have some new parade entries and new events during the day this year,” Brooks said. “There will be a warming tent, we are bringing it back this year.”

The entire festival has numerous events to check out, including the Festival of Trees, craft show at the Manistee High School, guided tours of the historic 1894 Lumber Baron Mansion — housing the Dempsey Manor Bed and Breakfast Inn, Victorian Tea Room — and various pre-parade events.

On Saturday, before the parade, people can enjoy roasted chestnuts, “A Victorian Christmas” display at the Manistee County Historical Museum, cookie decorating and crafting events held at downtown venues, the Old Kirke Museum’s Scandinavian Christmas open house, Santa meet and greet, and more.

“We are going to have horse and carriage rides on both ends of the downtown, because that is such a popular event that we wanted to bring more during the day,” said Brooks.

The festival wraps up on Sunday with a Santa meet and greet, lessons and carols, traditional Swedish brunch and more. Events are held in other areas of Manistee County during the weekend, as well.

While the festival approaches, Brooks said organizing the entire weekend has been a large task for all of those involved.

“(The festival) does not only benefit our downtown, but also the county,” she said. “People can go to the website for more information, or pick up a brochure in downtown businesses.”

This year’s full lineup can be found at manisteesleighbellparade.com.

avatar

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

Leave a Reply