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Fantasy of Lights: What You Need to Know

Annual parade kicks off Christmas

Ready to ring in Christmas?

Residents and visitors can help Santa kick off the holiday Friday in downtown Howell at the 33rd annual Fantasy of Lights parade.

“The Fantasy of Lights is a wonderful holiday tradition for many families,” said Michelle Tokan, Fantasy of Lights director. “We invite everyone to join us in downtown Howell as we start the celebration.”

The parade and a host of other activities usually attract more than 25,000 spectators and mark the arrival of the Christmas season in Howell. The theme this year is “Jingle Around the Block.”

The festival begins at 4 p.m., followed by a Fantasy 5K Run at 6 p.m. The parade starts at 7 p.m. The Howell Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation manages the festival.

The parade entries – nearly 40 this time around – include the Greenwood Farms Clydesdales, motorcycles, nativity scenes, hula hoops and dogs whose coats will shine in Christmas colors. Marching bands, Toys for Tots and Santa’s sleigh from the Howell Area Fire Department and other holiday favorites round out the lineup.

 Families also will be able to share their wishes with Santa in Christmas Alley, located on State Street, starting at 4 p.m. Santa will light the city’s Christmas tree together with grand marshals Joe and Becky Parker after the parade.

Saint Joseph Mercy Livingston Hospital will have a teddy bear clinic in the alley. Children can bring their teddy bears for a check up or pick up a teddy bear, though quantities are limited.

The alley also will feature holiday crafts and seasonal refreshments. Children can make a craft provided by POMME ROI Creative for $1.

In addition, Howell Public Schools will have a Stuff the Bus food drive for Gleaners in the alley from 4 p.m. till the end of the parade. Students will accept non-perishable food items and cash donations.

Add a run to your holiday fitness program

Run or cheer on the runners in the Fantasy 5K Run, a night-time jaunt down Grand River Avenue. The run starts at 6 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, 323 W. Grand River Ave.

“Runners are cheered on by thousands who line the parade route,” Tokan said. “We encourage them to dress up in festive attire.”

Runners may pre-register at howellfantasy5K.com. The cost is $35. Registration includes a Fantasy 5K medal for race finishers and lighted bracelet. Awards will also be given to top finishers in the 5K.

Runners can pick up their race materials on Wednesday at the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce, 123 E. Washington St., from noon to 6 p.m. Onsite registration begins at 9 a.m. on Friday.

Meet the grand marshals

Business owners and Howell investors Joe and Becky Parker are the parade grand marshals.

The Parkers own the Heart of Howell and are known for their generous charitable contributions to an array of organizations.

“The Parkers are such an asset to the chamber and the entire community,” chamber President Pat Convery said. “Their family, including their two daughters and grandchildren, are rooted and committed to this community and downtown Howell.”

The Parkers moved to Howell in 1989 and have raised their two daughters, Courtney and Brooke, in the city. The Fantasy of Lights Parade is one of Becky Parker’s favorite holiday traditions. The Parkers will have their five grandchildren on the Grand Marshal float.

“They are going to absolutely love being in the parade,” Joe Parker said. “Becky and I are so honored to be named the 2016 Grand Marshals.”

More holiday happenings

Visitors to Howell will find other downtown holiday attractions during Fantasy weekend and the upcoming holiday season.

The third annual Downtown Development Authority’s Deck the Windows storefront decorating contest showcases decorated windows, shops, restaurants and businesses. Cobb-Hall Insurance is sponsoring the event. Guests can vote for their favorite window display at downtownhowell.org.

The Livingston Arts Council will open The Opera House for tours and host Fantasy of Art from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. The event features handmade paintings, jewelry, pottery, holiday cards and more items for sale throughout the weekend, beginning Friday. The Opera House is located at the corner of Walnut and Grand River.

For more information, contact the chamber at 517-546-3920 or visit howell.org.

Contact Livingston Daily business reporter Noe Hernandez at 517-552-2854 or nhernandez@livingstondaily.com. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter @sayyesnoe.