By Robert Tomlinson
THREE RIVERS — The holiday season has officially kicked off in Three Rivers.
This past weekend, downtown Three Rivers hosted its annual Christmas Around Town celebration, what many people have considered over the years to herald in the start of the holiday season in the city.
The event featured plenty of festivities, activities, and sights for everyone who came downtown.
“It feels so wholesome to be able to kick off the holiday season for our town and do things that not only keep our town’s unique traditions, but also add new aspects to the event as well,” Three Rivers Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Cameron Mains said.
Friday night kicked off festivities with the annual Christmas tree lighting, held at the Mural Mall. People from all over the area filled the Mural Mall to celebrate, with the Three Rivers High School Aristocrats singing “O Christmas Tree” and Mayor Tom Lowry reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas in Michigan” prior to the lighting of the decorated 16-foot pine tree, donated to downtown by Scott Newland.
Following the lighting, Santa Claus made a brief appearance at the ceremony, one of the first times in recent memory Santa has done so, wishing everyone a great holiday season. Mains said the new wrinkle to what he called a “wholesome tradition” was added for those who might not have been able to make Saturday’s festivities.
“We wanted Santa to make an appearance because, as we know, it’s a busy time and it’s still coming off a holiday weekend. So, some people are only going to be able to come on one day, and maybe Friday for the tree lighting is the only day they can,” Mains said. “We wanted them to get the full experience and have them see Santa as well.”
Santa came back to downtown the next morning to kick off festivities Saturday, as per tradition, a Three Rivers Fire Department fire truck brought in the jolly old elf at noon, where a line of a couple dozen parents and kids awaited him, some waiting for more than an hour to see him. He would hold an audience at the Riviera Theatre for a few hours, while plenty of more activities went on around downtown.
Some of the events around downtown included a wagon ride around the area, arts and crafts workshops at the Three Rivers Public Library and 42 N. Main St., cookie decorating at GG’s Cookies, the downtown artisan market, the Three Rivers Artists Guild holiday gallery, ornament making at Portfolio Ink, coloring pages at Lowry’s Books and More, a hot cocoa station at World Fare, and a live reindeer display on Portage Avenue, provided by Reindeer Ranch of Kalamazoo, which returned for the first time in a few years.
“It was great, and brings such a cool aspect to the event and something new for families to come and see,” Mains said.
Seeing plenty of businesses open downtown for the weekend, Mains said, was a welcome sight to see.
“That’s something we wanted to push, particularly supporting the businesses we have here in downtown Three Rivers year-round, making sure they’re showcased on the weekend,” Mains said. “We wanted to encourage the businesses to stay open for the second day of the event [on Sunday].”
Mains was also pleased with how many businesses stayed open on Sunday for Christmas Around Town festivities, which has usually been fairly sparse with activities in past years.
“It’s really only come down to pictures with Santa on the Sunday of the event, and this year we wanted to make it just as exciting as Saturday,” Mains said. “We got a lot of businesses to stay open both days.”
Mains added it also helped the atmosphere of the event to have it be snowing on Sunday.
Another small aspect of the weekend was the debut of some new decorations around downtown, most notably an ornament arch photo site at East Alley. Mains said that was a new decorating initiative for the season from the DDA’s design committee and promotions committee.
“They worked together to create a theme for this year’s decorations, so it’s ‘Candy Cane Lane.’ We were able to put all-new decorations on the tree as well as a cool arch in East Alley that makes it like a photo opportunity, that way both of our walkthroughs have a fun, festive feel,” Mains said. “That’s the type of thing people are going to be able to look at years from now and say, ‘Oh yeah, we were in downtown Three Rivers like we always are and were able to capture a special moment.’”
Mains hinted there could be more events added in the future years to keep Christmas Around Town from going stale with the same events every year, including the possibility of a holiday parade, however nothing has been set in stone as of yet.
“The DDA is open to all ideas and building on our town’s traditions,” Mains said. “We would encourage people to get involved.”
Overall, Mains thanked the local businesses for their participation in Christmas Around Town, the sponsors for the event, the people for coming down to the event, and the Three Rivers Fire Department and Three Rivers Department of Public Services for their contributions and assistance.
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 or email@example.com.