Get your holiday magic Victorian Style
Manistee’s unique celebration of winter and the holidays.
By Kim Schneider | Photography courtesy Manistee County Photography Courtesy Manistee County

You can hear gasps from along the parade route even over the impressive clomping, as four massive draft horses power down River Street with the precious cargo: a 30-plus-foot tree, specially selected from citizen nominations, fully decorated and standing upright as it skids its way down the snow-covered street.

The idea for a nonmotorized parade that features only clothing, vehicles and items seen on this street in the heyday of the Victorian Port City is just one that a Manistee “uniqueness committee” hatched three decades ago.

 

The Manistee Victorian Sleighbell Parade and Old Christmas Weekend marks its 30th anniversary Dec. 6-9, with a focus — as always — on the traditions that make it unique. For many years running, the same team of working Belgians has hauled the tree. Local architect Kendra Thompson will don her fur cape, her husband his best lumberjack flannel and with friends roast the chestnuts she's provided free for sampling every year for the past 29 years. Alongside them, trombone players from around the state will gather to belt out Christmas tunes the Merry Trombones band way.

The Common Gentry Carriage Co. again will provide the free sleigh rides among downtown Victorian buildings before leaving to usher Santa down the parade route. And when the longtime Santa passed away, said event chairperson Rachel Brooks, he contacted his brother with a last request: that he take over so no kid is let down.

Such stories underscore the importance of event traditions, both for those who throw the annual Victorian Christmas Weekend party and those who attend, Brooks said. Merchants and volunteers dress in Victorian garb — and parade-goers sometimes do, too. — See the current issue for the full story.