In that sweet spot between the unofficial start of the holiday season (Thanksgiving) and Yuletide fatigue, Tuscola County communities are looking to take advantage of Christmas cheer aplenty this weekend.
Caro, Cass City, Vassar, and Reese plan to hold holiday-themed events aimed at rallying locals and visitors alike around their respective business communities.
Caro’s Gingerbread Village and Cass City’s Christmas in the Village are long-standing annual events.
Vassar’s Holly Jolly Fesitval and Reese’s Christmas in the Village are new for the first Saturday in December (though Reese’s event has been around a long time, it traditionally has been the Tuesday after Thanksgiving).
“It’s going to be a great opportunity for people in communities like Reese to spend time with their families celebrating the holidays,” said Sarah Costello, social media director with the Reese Area Chamber of Commerce and chair of the Reese Christmas in the Village event (a story about the event can be found here. A Facebook event page can be found by clicking here.). The first weekend in December is ideal, Costello said, because many people are excited about the holidays but not too busy with commitments to friends and families or scrambling to get ready for Christmas.
Meggen Jensen, board member for the Caro Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of Caro’s Gingerbread Village, said the event begins Thursday, Dec. 1, and continues through Dec. 7. (Jensen also is a senior sales executive for The Advertiser).
A complete schedule can be found by clicking here.
Whereas there are events scheduled all day on Saturday, Jensen said the organization is putting emphasis on events set for this Friday.
“It’s a family-friendly event,” she said. “It’s for the community, but we also are trying to draw people in from outside of Caro.”
Jensen said Friday events will include a Christmas tree lighting ceremony at 6 p.m. in Trudeau Square (next to Harvest Coffeehouse & Deli, 157 N. State St.), along with Christmas caroling and the opportunity to visit with Santa. Carriage rides will be available (weather permitting).
In Vassar, the new Holly Jolly Festival is set for noon to 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3, in the downtown area. An event page on Facebook can be found by clicking here.
There are 19 businesses involved in the festival, but in order to find out who is involved visitors are urged to stop at CandyLand, 194 E. Huron Ave., which is owned by Betty Burley, the event coordinator.
Participating businesses include C&S Jewelers, Sam & Ruby’s The Corner Deli and Pioneer Financial Services.
Many will offer different activities, including an “elf hunt” where participants have a chance to find 19 elves hidden throughout the area to be eligible to win one of three gift baskets donated by Pioneer Financial and H&R Block in Vassar (pick up and drop off forms at CandyLand).
Burley, who is also director of the Vassar Chamber of Commerce, said the event has been in the works for a few months. She has made other events as well like the Fall Harvest Festival held Oct. 1. The festival featured Vassar businesses, too, but with a fall theme that included pumpkin decorating, shopping and games.
Burley said she made these and other events to build up the city.
“For me, I love Vassar,” said Burley. “It’s just a really good, small town and I have a business there — I want to stay there. And so I’m just looking to help build up the town, bring things for the kids and just promote it.”
The festival is meant for children and families, Burley explained, and that means visitors can expect to play games, decorate cookies, make ornaments, stop by the hot chocolate bar for a cup of cocoa, and enjoy face painting and carriage rides. At 1 p.m., Santa Claus will arrive and children can get pictures taken with him at Veteran’s Park.
The annual Yuletide lighting of the tree at Veteran Plaza is set for between 5:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Attendees are invited to begin gathering at Veteran’s Park at 4:30 p.m. when the Vassar High School choir and band will begin performing and carriage rides will be available.
“It’s just a wonderful small town — everybody’s working together businesses and people,” said Burley.
The Cass City Chamber of Commerce will hold its Christmas in the Village holiday event starting from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. Festivities continue through Dec. 11, however, and pick up again Dec. 17.
Judy Keller, chamber administrator for Cass City Chamber of Commerce, said the event first began as a community gathering with local residents eating bean soup, but grew over the years to include a parade, chili cook off and up to 1,000 attendees.
“We have such good attendance at all of them. We have free pancakes, a lot of people attend the craft show, and everyone likes a good Christmas parade. I don’t think there’s one event that’s any more special. Everyone just enjoys the day.”
As in years past, the event will begin at 9 a.m. with a pancake breakfast with Santa at the Cass City Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3644, 4533 Veterans Drive. Children 11 years old and under are free and adults and children 12 years and older pay $2.
From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., a craft show will be held at Cass City High School where attendees are asked to donate a nonperishable food item or $1 to Cass City’s Revive Ministries.
From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. the Chili Cook Off will be held at the village hall.
At 1 p.m. doors open for a free showing of the movie “Epic” at Cass Theatre. The movie begins at 2 p.m. and is sponsored by Thumb National Bank.
Cass City Village Manager Peter Cristiano described the event as “a beautiful, wonderful event.”
“The hidden side of it is it does a great many things for families and kids other than the parade itself,” Cristiano added.
He said he and Cass City Village President Carl Palmeteer will both be involved in the parade. The two will be seated in the village truck that will be decorated with a large Christmas box on the back of it. For him, seeing the effect the event brings to children and adults is worth it.
“You would see a lot of things that would put tears in your eyes,” he said “It’s very well done.”
Businesses such as Pioneer Financial Services in Vassar sponsor community holiday events such as the Holly Jolly Festival for the benefit of the community.
Other event sponsors include Sandy and Wally Keyes, Vassar Rotary Club, City of Vassar, Cook Chevrolet Buick, Vassar Building Center, Cork Pine Builders L.L.C, Pennell Farms and Berry Produce, Penzien Steele Funeral Home, Heinlein Facelifts, Vassar Automotive, Vassar Theatre and CandyLand.
“Christmas is for the kids and we wanted to make it as enjoyable for the kids as possible,” said Jan Krumnauer, of Pioneer Financial Services. “That’s our main thing and we want people to come to the town and participate.”
Cindy Kruse, senior vice president and branch manager at Cass City Thumb National Bank, said the bank has been participating in the Cass City holiday event for the past 10 years and sponsors up to three movies each time.
Kruse said the bank also gives away hot chocolate during the Christmas Lighted Parade that begins at 6 p.m. The parade will go from the Cass City Village Park to the VFW building. Following the parade, Keller said at 6:30 p.m. people can stay for the Community Gathering at the VFW that will offer kids the opportunity to take a picture with Santa Claus, take carriage rides and free such as including bean soup, cookies and hot cocoa.
Over the years, Kruse said the event has been good in regard to serving local children who receive gifts from local businesses.
“It’s a nice event for the community, the kids — it brings people I have never seen from out of the area and the children get gifts,” Kruse added.
For more information on Vassar’s Holly Jolly Festival, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/565950866935597/ or call the Vassar Chamber of Commerce at 989-823-2601.
For more information on the Cass City event and the Dec. 10, 11 and 17 schedule, call the Cass City Chamber of Commerce at 989-872-4618.
Andrew Dietderich is editor of The Advertiser and can be reached at email@example.com