Santa Claus has come to town — to Lansing, in fact.
English and communication junior Jenna Cermak stood soaking up the holiday cheer as thousands crowded the streets of downtown Lansing on Friday evening to welcome Santa to Michigan’s capital during the city’s 27th annual Silver Bells in the City.
“It’s exciting to have this event as a kickoff to the Christmas season,” she said. “Seeing that atmosphere and everyone getting excited for the season to begin made me excited.”
Cermak and her friends attended Silver Bells in the City, a festive event held near the Capitol to help the community ring in the holiday season. The evening featured the 15th annual Electric Light Parade, the lighting of Michigan’s official State Tree and fireworks over the Capitol dome.
The parade route, which began at Lenawee Street and South Washington Street, ran several blocks downtown, wrapping around City Hall, 124 W. Michigan Ave., in Lansing. It featured more than 60 entries, such as a Capital Area Transportation Authority bus decorated as a caterpillar — covered in twinkling blue lights, with an antenna and a pair of eyes on its screen — wiggling back and forth down the parade route.
Katie Wittenauer, a member of the Silver Bells in the City planning committee, said the event was a way for the community to physically see the success of the city’s businesses, groups and residents.
“One of the most important parts of the parade is the fact that it gets everybody very excited about what’s going on in Lansing in a way that you wouldn’t usually get to see,” she said. “It actually makes everything that’s going on in Lansing really visible.”
Social relations and policy senior Rose Jones said she attended Silver Bells in the City two years ago and has seen an increase in both the size of the crowds and activities offered to those attending, including more stores open and more booths selling holiday treats along the streets of downtown Lansing.
“(The event) seems to be growing quite a lot,” she said. “People are starting to appreciate what it brings to the community.”
As the parade concluded, the crowd gathered around a stage set up in front of the Capitol to watch Michigan’s Official Tree, a 65-foot spruce, spring to electrical life as the switch was flipped and the Christmas lights covering it were illuminated.
“There were people around us doing the countdown,” Cermak said. “That just built up the energy and excitement.”
After the tree was set to glow for the holiday season, 14-year-old Australian pop singer Cody Simpson took the stage to perform for an eager audience primarily composed of teenage girls and families.
Cassandra Kemennu, an Oakland Community College student, said she and her friends drove two hours to Lansing for the event and waited eight hours to secure a spot in front of the stage as close as possible to her favorite singer.
“Even though it was freezing cold and we waited that long to see him perform, it was amazing,” she said. “Even the pushing that happened didn’t matter since we were up close. We are die-hard fans.”
Kemennu said Simpson’s performance and his display of gratitude to his fans in Lansing kept her appreciation for the artist strong.
After working as an intern for the State House this past summer and watching multiple debates about a variety of city issues, Jones said she appreciated the solidarity Silver Bells in the City brought to the Lansing community.
“Events like this are worth it, especially in a time that’s economically and politically hard in Michigan,” she said. “We should put time and energy into doing things that unite us and enjoy things all together instead of being divided.”
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