Known as the “Victorian Port City,” many of the homes and buildings in downtown Manistee built during the Victorian era remain today. The community pays tribute to their history with the 25th Anniversary of the Manistee Victorian Sleighbell Parade & Old Christmas Weekend starting on Wednesday, December 4 and continuing through Sunday, December 8.
“I moved to Manistee nine years ago and this parade and weekend touched me,” said Catherine Zaring, event chair. “It is so magical, it is hard to describe in words, you really have to experience it in person.”
Event highlights include the Sleighbell Parade downtown on Saturday night starting at 5:30 pm. The parade attracts over 10,000 with the highlight being the Belgian draft horses pulling a 30’ Christmas tree down River Street. Event organizers encourage those wanting to see the parade to arrive early and enjoy the hot cider and fresh roasted chestnuts starting around 4 pm.
Additional events of note include the Gingerbread House Contest, Festival of Trees, and guided tours of Babcock House, a grand lumberman’s mansion.
MANISTEE ON THE MOVE
Zaring, who serves on the city commission and is the mayor pro tem, jokes “Be careful what you ask for,” when asked how she ended up chairing the event.
“I am in my second year and at a meeting they asked for someone to chair this and I opened my big mouth,” said Zaring. “I am glad I did. First of all, the people who started this and organized this over the past 23 years did such a great job that it makes my life as chair pretty easy. I did it because I love this event. I have seen parades all over the country and this is hands down the best anywhere, anytime of the year.”
For Zaring, moving to Manistee was all about not hitting any deer.
“My husband took a job in Manistee several years ago but we moved to Traverse City and he commuted. Well, we had lived in lots of places where there were deer all over but never once hit a deer. One morning on his way to work he hit a deer. That was it. For me that was a sign and we moved to Manistee and have loved living here ever since.”
Zaring is happy to be a part of the renaissance of Manistee.
“Manistee is on the move. This past five years you really can feel the energy level and excitement rising. We are also seeing a lot of young people moving here. They see all of the opportunities here now,” said Zaring. “I think a lot of that has to do with our pro entrepreneurship mindset. There is a real feeling of place-making here. People are starting to realize that you can live, work and play here in Manistee County.”
‘DRESS IN LAYERS’
But for this week all the focus is on the 25th anniversary of the Manistee Victorian Sleighbell Parade & Old Christmas Weekend, an event Zaring said is just as much for visitors as for locals.
“A little advice for the long distance traveler; book your hotel room now for next year. But people who live in Northern Michigan could certainly day trip it and enjoy the festivities,” said Zaring. “If you are coming for the parade, here is a tip: dress in layers. Make sure you keep your feet, fingers and face warm.”
The 25th Anniversary of the Manistee Victorian Sleighbell Parade & Old Christmas Weekend takes place December 4-8 in and around downtown Manistee. In addition to the numerous Victorian themed holiday events, Manistee is a great place to pick up shop and eat. Plus with all the carolers wondering about, decked out in period dresses, coats, and top hats, you will feel like you have traveled back in time. For more info and a complete schedule of events check out www.visitmanisteecounty.com.