Bright Lights, Christmas Lights • 26th Annual Holidays in the Heart of the City & the 45th Annual Christmas Parade

Two Days of Seasonal Celebration Friday & Saturday November 18-19th

Posted In: Culture, Community Profiles, News, Local,   From Issue 937   By: Robert E Martin

03rd November, 2022     0

If nothing else, the Christmas Holiday Season is that one time of the year where expectations run high and happiness is more often than not produced through the miraculous possibilities generated when individuals make connections with one another throughout their community.

And when it comes to brightening up the lights, spirit, and attitude within our fair city there is no finer vehicle for kicking off the holiday season than the annual back-to-back Holidays in the Heart of the City & Christmas Parade extravaganzas, which this year will start on the evening of Friday, November 18th  at 5:45 pm with the Lighting Ceremony at the Saginaw Water Treatment Plan, and conclude with the 8:30 PM Fireworks Display from Ojibway Island.

Then the following morning on Saturday, November 19th, people can experience the colorful excitement of the  45th Annual Christmas Parade, which starts at 11:00 AM in downtown Saginaw traveling south on South Washington from Johnson streets, then west on Ezra Rust Drive to Ojibway Island, featuring floats, marching bands, clowns, antique cars, costumed characters, historical units, and of course, a welcomed appearance by Santa Claus himself.

Thanks to the efforts of Holiday’s Chairwoman Kathy Reis, who has filled that role since 2001, along with Jeanne Conger, Director of Positive Results for Downtown Saginaw, and Parade Chairman Chuck Priem, this committed collective of volunteers  has garnered the support of well over 20 community organizations and caused these back-to-back events to draw an average of 20,000 people to Saginaw’s Old Town District, Downtown Saginaw, and Ezra Rust Park Drive for this glittering celebration of our community and its resources.

“I would describe this year’s Holidays in the Heart of the City activities as New & Improved,” reflects Kathy, “because in addition to adding in some fresh events we are tweaking all of our traditional events up a notch to make them bigger and better.”

“Students at Nouvel Catholic High School are working hard at bringing us an expanded Live Nativity performance at The Montague Inn on the front lawn from 5:30 - 8:30 pm; and this year we’ll be adding a new event by showing a Christmas movie at The Court Theater. For a small fee of $6.00 people can see The Santa Claus with Tim Allen at 6:30 PM, which will include a small pop and popcorn.”

“Additionally, for the Lighting Ceremony at the Water Treatment Plant, which kicks off our festivities at 5:45 PM, the Saginaw Choral Society will be showcasing 48 kids involved with their Youth Choir, which makes this a bigger event than normal.  So essentially, we’ve been working hard at tweaking things in order to improve the overall celebration and make it brighter than ever.”

“One of our newer participants will be the Saginaw Strings, who will be joining the Saginaw Area Concert Band for a free concert at Michigan Avenue Baptist Church, where we will be collecting donations of new hats, gloves, and scarves for those less fortunate,” adds Jeanne. “Plus, this year we’ll have an increased number of food vendors spanning the distance from Borchard Park to the Children’s Zoo, with a good variety of selections.”

This year’s itinerary for Holidays in the Heart of the City concludes at 8:30 pm  with their spectacular Fireworks display at Ojibway Island, which is an entirely aerial display so everyone in attendance can see them, and will last for approximately 10-minutes.

Santa and his reindeer will be on hand at the Gazebo in Borchard Park in Old Town Saginaw, and the Saginaw Castle Museum will feature their Cookie Hut, plus free pony rides will take place from Borchard Park around town, with free transportation across the Court St. Bridge

Free Horse Drawn Wagon Rides sponsored by the Frank N. Andersen Foundation begin at the Andersen Enrichment Center at 5:30 PM and travel along Ezra Rust Drive until 8:00 PM; and the HAP/WSGW  Cookie House Competition will take place at the Andersen Enrichment Center, along with the Downtown Saginaw Farmers Market’s Holiday Market.  The deadline for entering the Cookie House Competition will be November 11th and interested participants can sign up on the Positive Results in Downtown Saginaw website.

The Japanese Tea House will be showcasing Origami and Tea Ceremony demonstrations and the Mexican-American Council will be holding an Open House with live music, vendors, and treats; while the Saginaw Children’s Zoo will be featuring Free Admission and  $1.00 Train & Carousel rides. Activities are also scheduled at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, offering free music on the porch and indoors along with free cookies and hot chocolate.

The WSGW Cookie House Competition at the Andersen Enrichment Center is free to enter and offers an opportunity for participants to win a $100 Grand Prize in seven different categories ranging from Elementary, Middle & High School to Family organizations, business, and Professional divisions.

Entries are judged on originality, presentation, workmanship and composition; and all applications must be received by Friday, November 18th.  Entry forms can be obtained by phoning 989.753.9168 or by downloading the form available on

“We have seven different categories with $100 price money in each category plus a plaque, so this is an excellent team building project for businesses to become involved with.  We would really like to see more cookie houses and are still accepting applications up to about a week before the event,” adds Jeanne.

For the 45th  Annual Christmas Parade the following day on  Saturday, November 19th, the Grand Marshall will be retired social worker Leola Wilson, who is active in many Saginaw social groups and is the longtime past president of the Saginaw Chapter of the NAACP.

“Our parade theme this year is Bright Lights, Christmas Lights, because we are hoping people will decorate more this year and use some type of Christmas lighting on their floats,” explains Chuck. “Plus, another big development is that the Castle Museum’s Free Holiday Party is back after being forced to close due to the pandemic.  The Castle will feature games, crafts, face painting, cookies and photos with anta from Noon until 4 pm.

“An important component to this celebration that I’m pleased to announce is returning this year is the Girls on the Run 5K Reindeer Run,” notes Chuck. “We usually get about 700 people signing up for that. Registration is at The Castle Museum at 9 am, festivities at 9:15 am, the Reindeer Run that is open to all runners starts at 10:40 am, and then the Girls of the Run 5K starts at 10:45 am and ends at the Andersen Enrichment Center.

“Santa will be greeting everyone at Morley Plaza in Downtown Saginaw from 10:30 to 10:55 AM and then the parade will start at 11:00 AM,. “There will be free parking at Ezy Park from 8:00 AM until 2:00 PM and a reviewing stand will also be set up at Morley Plaza, with free hot chocolate and little gifts,” he adds.

“Parade participants should check in at 8:30 AM so they can get all set up,” explains Chuck. “Participants will be given plaque cards they will take so they can be moved into position and the judging will start at 10:00 AM, with plenty of awards available. We want all participants ready to move forward so we don’t have large gaps in the parade line-up.”

According to Chuck, the committee is still receiving entries on floats and the deadline for entries will be November 11th. There is a $40.00 fee to enter the parade and people can enter the parade by contacting Positive Results in Downtown Saginaw or visiting their website.

“This year we have Arthur Hill & Saginaw High performing as a combined marching band and then Heritage High School Band has also signed up, plus the Saginaw Arts & Sciences Academy has  volunteers who have signed up as elves to pass out candy canes and go along with Santa on the parade route.  People are welcome to give candy out, but we ask that they distribute by candy bowling where you roll it to the curb instead of tossing it in the air so we don’t have kids running into the street,” interjects Jeanne.

Other activities scheduled for Saturday include Old Town Saginaw Open Houses from 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM, a Makers Market  at the SVRC Marketplace, along with the Downtown Saginaw Farmer’s Market ‘Holiday Market at the Andersen Enrichment Center from 10:00 am - 1:00 PM; the HAP/WSGW Cookie House Competition at the Andersen Enrichment Center from 10:00 am - 1:00 PM; and a Holiday Party at the Hoyt Library from 2:00 - 3:00 PM.

“This is truly a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic event that draws thousands of people from throughout our region and state together to celebrate the spirit of the season,” concludes Kathy. “There are so many activities going on through this celebration that bring the people within our community together, and they can walk the route, ride the horse drawn wagons, or take free busses across the bridge to get them wherever they wish to be.”

“This has event has become a family tradition for so many. It lights that ember of the holiday glow and is a magnificent way to truly ignite the holiday spirit.”




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