Sixth Annual Festival of Lights Brings Cheer and Joy to Stockbridge Residents
Article and photos by Hope Salyer
Christmas music flows through the breeze of the crisp winter air in downtown Stockbridge. The Stockbridge Township Hall is lit up with white Christmas lights. The smell of freshly made kettle corn and hot dogs grilling travels through the air as residents from as far as downtown Lansing, Mich. fill the streets awaiting the highly anticipated sixth annual Festival of Lights parade and Christmas tree lighting on Saturday, November 25.
Sherry Wagner and Holite Doxtator, first time attendees of the Festival said they wanted to attend the event to go Christmas Caroling with Crossroads Community Church, of which they are both members. Doxtator added she also wanted to allow her children to have pictures taken with Santa.
Wagner said her favorite part of the Festival was the little stops available for the children. “The little craft booths were really thought out,” she said. “They had several activities for the kids to do. It was really fun.”
Amid the cheer and joy of many Festival attendees, chatter of concern filled the air.
Then annual horse-drawn carriage rides went awry. Steve Opp’s horse was spooked following a carriage ride.
According to bystanders Terry and Malory Wireman, passengers had just gotten off the ride when something startled the black horse. The horses took off at a gallop with the carriage and Opp still attached. The frantic equines rounded the four corners, almost tipping the carriage over. Opp was able to stay on the carriage, but the horses collided with a utility pole in front of the First Presbyterian Church of Stockbridge. The horses broke free as onlookers tried to catch them. As of press time both horses had been caught, and Opp was okay.
Following the chaos, Gordie Kunzelman, the emcee of the night, sparked excitement as the 27 parade entries, nearly twice the number as last year, arrived on Main Street. Local businesses and residents entered into the 2017 Light Parade were Grand Marshals Jon and Elizabeth Fillmore of Abbott and Fillmore Agency, Adkins Family, Animal Blood Resources, B&B Taylor Farms, Chuck Walz, Consumer’s Energy, Deanna Kruger, Doyle Valley Percherons, Hickory Ridge Farms, Ingham County Road Commission, Lack of Interest Fire Department, Stockbridge Lions Planes, Michigan Police Unity Team, Massman Trucking, Stockbridge Area Emergency Services Authority Ambulance, SAESA Fire Department, Stockbridge State Bank, Stockbridge Bowl, Stockbridge High School Band, Trinity Lutheran Church, Wild Sanitation, Santa’s Sleigh, American Legion and Unadilla Fire Department.
There were six categories of competition. Winners were as follows: Michigan Police Unity Team, most creative; Chuck Walz, most original; Kruger family, most comical; Hickory Ridge Farm, best effort; Consumers Energy, most detailed; SAESA Fire, best equipment.
The annual gingerbread house contest had 16 entries. The first place winner was “The Tiki Hut House,” second place was “The Town Barn” and third place was “The School.” Honorable mentions went to “The Christmas Town,” “Log Cabin – Moore Lock Family,” “Candy House Christmas” and “Firehouse 301 Christmas.”
According to Stockbridge Area Chamber of Commerce President and Positively Chiropractic Co-Owner, Dr. Erin Clifton, the Festival included many new aspects. “Santa is in the town hall this year, and Kipp Vogel, Jon Fillmore and Badall’s Upholstery donated time, skill set and money to build a new Santa throne for Santa to sit in and visit with the children,” Clifton said.
There was also a new event at the Festival called the Tree Gala, which allowed local businesses to decorate a tree as a charity fundraiser. “Local businesses and organizations were allowed to decorate a 6-6.5’ artificial tree to grace the entrance to the town hall the day of the Festival,” Clifton said. “People got to vote for their favorite tree for $1 per vote, and 50 percent of the money went to a charity of the winner’s choice. The other 50 percent was donated to the Chamber for future festival funds.”
The Tree Gala winners were: Lilac Ridge LLC, first place; Focus on U, second place; Bramlett Heating and Cooling, third place. First place winners Lilac Ridge LLC donated their $50 dollar winnings to St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
James Wireman, local business owner of Focus on U and second place winner of the Tree Gala, said he wanted to decorate a tree for the Festival because he thought it would be a good way to bring the community together. “We think it’s an amazing opportunity to bring the community together for something positive,” Wireman said. “And we love Christmas,” he chuckled. He continued, “I just love the turnout of bringing everybody together. Everybody is so cheerful and happy.”