To mark the beginning of the holiday season, Lansing will be hosting Silver Bells in the City tonight, a holiday event that includes an electric light parade, free entertainment and the lighting of the capitals Christmas tree.
The event began in 1985 with just a few luminaries and a community sing led by the Lansing mayor but has now grown to provide entertainment for an expected 40,000 to 50,000 people.
At the beginning of the event it was started as a way to promote downtown, said Sue Mills, executive director of the Arts Council of Greater Lansing, which coordinates the event.
Mills said in 1987, Michigan Gov. Jim Blanchard wanted to know if the capital tree could be lit to coincide with the Silver Bells celebration.
That was the first thing that was added to Silver Bells that really made it grow, she said. We added entertainment. We have over 50 choral groups, bell ringing groups. Then we opened up cultural institutions downtown. Theyre all open (free of charge).
The event goes from 5:30 to 9:30 tonight and includes free horse drawn carriage rides in the Washington Square area, free cider and cookies at some of the institutions downtown, an electric light parade and snow, which is a unique feature for this years celebration.
Were expecting snow, Mills said. Weve only had snow one other year.
Mills said each of the 53 units in the parade will be lit. The parade begins at 6:10 p.m. at the corner of Lenawee Street and S. Washington Square, goes up S. Washington Square to Michigan Avenue, where it will turn left and continue to Capitol Avenue. The parade will then turn left on Capitol Avenue and head back to Lenawee Street.
After the parade passes the tree at the Capitol, the 60-foot tree from Lincoln, Mich., will be lit with 2,800 lights.
Then we have a countdown and a big switch is brought down and the tree lights, Mills said.
Matt White, assistant facilities director for the Capitol, said the search for the capital tree is conducted across the state.
People call in from all over the state saying they want to donate a holiday tree, White said. We went to a smaller bulb (this year) but we put a lot more lights on it Itll be just as bright, but therell be a lot more bulbs.
Also at the celebration will be the Lansing Board of Water and Lights caboose set up to collect toys for the U.S. Marines Toys for Tots program.
We thought it would attract a lot of attention, said John Strickler, the communications director for the board. We invite people to bring a new unwrapped toy to contribute something to somebody elses Christmas. Its our understanding that theyre distributed to needy children in the greater Lansing area.