The Sparkle of Christmas • Two Days of Holiday Magic November 16 & 17th

Holidays in the Heart of the City & the 41st Annual Christmas Parade

Posted In: Culture, Community Profiles,   From Issue 870   By: Robert E Martin

08th November, 2018     0

There is no finer exponent for kicking off the holiday season than the annual Holidays in the Heart of the City & Christmas Parade extravaganza, which this year will start on the evening of Friday, November 16th 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, followed by the 41st Annual Christmas Parade the next morning on Saturday, November 17th at 11 AM, featuring floats, marching bands, drill teams, costumed characters, and of course, an early appearance by Santa to help kick things off.

With involvement from well over 20 community organizations, this entire weekend extravaganza is organized through the passionate commitment of community members that comprise Positive Results for Downtown Saginaw, which over the span of 22 years has grown to the point where last year it attracted an estimated 20,000 people to Saginaw’s Old Town District, Downtown Saginaw, and Ezra Rust Park Drive districts for a jovial and glittering kick-off to the holiday season, according to Positive Results Director Jeanne Conger and Holiday’s Chairwoman Kathy Reis, who has served in that role since 2001.

“We have so much going on that most people can only make it to three events,” notes Jeanne. “Last year’s count at the Zoo involved 4,500 people attending, which was a 1000 increase from the previous year; and the activities at the Andersen Center drew another 3,000, and the four churches involved that staged full concerts collectively drew another 2,000 people, plus the activities at the Japanese Tea House were full.”

According to ‘Holidays’ Chairwoman Kathy Reis, “While this is the 41st anniversary for the parade, when we first started “Holidays in the Heart of the City”  it was with the Festival of Lights and we had people traveling down Washington, Genesee, and Michigan in a big loop, but in 1996 decided to condense it to a walkable area of closed off streets between Court and over the bridge to Ezra Rust and split it into two events – the Holidays in the Heart of the City that kicks things off on Friday and then the Santa Parade the following day.  The Ojibway Island Fireworks display on Friday at 8:30 PM pulls it all together. Our budget has stayed stable and many foundations and sponsors have come forward to help us cover costs, so it’s gratifying that both our level of sponsorships and attendance have grown over the years.”

Speaking of growth, Kathy says this year attendees can expect an expanded musical line-up. “This year we’ll be featuring three concerts. First Presbyterian Church will host the Saginaw Area Concert Band for a one-hour performance; St. Johns will feature a ½ hour concert with The Saginaw Choral Society; and Holy Family will be hosting a one-hour event with a variety of choirs.  Additionally, Holy Cross will be featuring music and a group of people wanted to do something acapella, so will be singing at the Saginaw Children’s’ Zoo. Music is an important component of this event.”

As for food vendors, Jeanne notes how the Downtown Farmers Market will be holding a Winter Market at the Andersen Enrichment Center, Borchard Park will have the Waffle Hut, plus the TNT Concession, Papa John’s Pizza will be on hand, and the Positive Results hot dog stand will be serving hot chocolate and hot dogs in front of the Waterworks plant.

“Plus, this year the luminaries that we place on the Court Street Bridge won’t have to fight with the wind anymore , as we’ve got battery operated LED candles that won’t blow out or burn out, thanks to support from the Saginaw Community Foundation, which we’re very happy about. Several Kiwanis groups will be getting them ready,” notes Kathy.

As for the Saturday Christmas Parade, according to Jeanne this year the route will begin at the corner of Johnson & Washington Streets and go past Morley Plaza, where there will be a reviewing stand. “Santa will be there at 10:30 am and will give away a gift for the first 100 kids, plus Ezy Park on the corner of Washington & Johnson is donating their parking lot in the morning so people attending the parade can park there and walk down to Morey Plaza to see Santa and view the Parade.  We’ll be serving free hot chocolate and the parade route will go down to Ojibway Island.”

“Plus, the Saginaw Career Complex is building us a new Santa Float,” she adds. “Two years ago they finished a new Grand Marshall Float and this year Ruth Ann Knapp donated a brand new trailer so we can build a new Santa Float, which will make its debut this year.”

“It definitely takes a village to make an event of this nature happen,” reflects Kathy, “and we are fortunate to have volunteers on two sets of committees, the Holidays in the Heart of the City Committee and the Christmas Parade committee, which each have a dozen volunteers.”

“Another new thing we are very excited about this year is that we’ll be lighting up Morley Plaza the day of the Parade around 4:30 pm,” notes Jeanne. “We view Morley Plaza as the center of downtown and have received enough contributions to have at least eight more trees decorated in the Plaza.”

“We also want to encourage people and businesses to enter our annual Cookie House Competition at the Andersen Enrichment Center,” emphasizes Jeanne. “We have six 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.”

“This year we joined forces with Caro who stage a Gingerbread House event for cross-marketing purposes, but really need to get more Cookie Houses for this year,” adds Jeanne. “If we don’t get more entries than next year we may look at replacing it with a different event. We’ve had some years where we could get up to 50 cookie houses submitted.”

The categories for competition consist of Elementary school grades 1-6; Middle School, grades 6-8, High School grades 9-12; Family (immediate family members/home schooled; College Age, Freelance, Business; and Professional – a person employed by any food service organization. To obtain entry forms, please visit

For the 41st  Annual Christmas Parade that starts at 11:00 AM on Saturday, November 17th, this year’s theme is The Sparkle of Christmas  and the Grand Marshall will be Mr. Gilberto Guevara.   A Saginaw native, Gilberto is involved in the betterment of the Saginaw community.  He has served on the Saginaw Board of Education and is a Certified Immigration Consultant.  Retired after 25 years with the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw and 10 years with the City of Saginaw, Human Relations Department, Gilberto has also served on numerous boards and organizations. He and his wife, Guadalupe Villarreal, recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.  When people say, “It is what it is”, Gilberto says, “No, it is what we make it” and need to get to work to make change.”  With nearly 50 to 70 floats anticipated, marching bands, drill teams, costumed characters and Santa on hand, parade emcees will consist of Alana Holland and Sara Simnith from WNEM-TV5.

Other activities scheduled for Saturday after the parade include a free Christmas Party at the Castle Museum with Santa and Children’s’ activities from Noon to 4 PM; Free Christmas Stories & a Puppet Show at Hoyt Library at 2 PM; the Cookie House Competition continuing at the Andersen Enrichment Center, the Saginaw Farmer’s Market Holiday Market, which will also be at Andersen Enrichment Center from 10 AM to 1 PM, Holidays at the SVRC Marketplace from 10 am to 5 PM, The Lighting Ceremony at Morley Plaza at 4:30 PM; and the Saginaw Eddy Concert Band Christmas Performance of ‘A Christmas Rhapsody’ at The Temple Theatre at 7:30 PM.

“It is very gratifying to work at bringing so many different groups and sponsors together for this special annual holiday celebration,” concludes Kathy. “This is truly a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic event that draws thousands of people from throughout the state of Michigan together to celebrate the spirit of the season with such a glittering array of seasonal events and talent.  It lights that ember of the holiday glow and is a magnificent way to truly ignite the holiday spirit.”



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