Sleigh bells jingling, ring tingle tingling too! Come on it’s lovely weather for Holiday Fest together with you! Downtown Portland MI is excitedly gearing up to welcome guests for it’s annual Holiday Fest on Saturday, December 14th. Gather with your family and friends in downtown Portland to delight in sharing community together, and for many opportunities to make magical memories.
“It’s the festive smiles and joyful faces of all the hosting businesses and visiting guests that fills Portland with holiday cheer,” stated MiPortland Downtown Director, Tina ConnerWellman who is joined with volunteers, businesses and organizations to coordinate a full day and evening “offering something special for everyone,” stated Tutt Gorman, Portland City Manager.
There are creative, and inspired window displays in downtown Portland, sporting this years theme, Back to the Future, in honor of Portland’s Sesquicentennial year. Designers were encouraged to show their favorite era of Christmas Past, or their thoughts on Christmas future – or a combined display of both. There are 10 entries into the contest this year, with many additional beautiful displays to discover on a walk through downtown. For the first time, the public was invited to vote online with Facebook. The online pole will be taken into consideration with the judges choice. Winners will be announced Thursday December 12, in time for Holiday Fest. You are invited to make a visit to Portland anytime over the holiday season to enjoy artistic and well-crafted displays created for your viewing pleasure.
Holiday Fest has a ‘kick off’ evening event Friday Dec 13, The Christmas Cabaret, hosted by Portland Civic Players at the Portland Community Theater. This is a fun, upbeat night out - semi formal event for adults over the age of 21. Delicious Hor d’oevres and beer/wine tickets are included with an entertaining emcee and talented cast to lead guests through Christmas favorites, old and new. Limited tickets still available portland-civic-players.ticketleap.com/christmas-cabaret/
Enhancing the magic of Holiday Fest and incorporating Sesquicentennial, MI Portland Downtown presents the Portland 150 Holiday Historic Home Tour. $5 gains you entry to each of five of Portland’s most storied and intriguing homes open to guests from 1pm to 4pm. Homes featured on the tour are "The Webber Mansion", "The Rice Home" "The Allen House" "Dr Dellenbaugh Loft" and "The Torp-Smith Home". Amanda Johnston of Sandborn Real Estate is organizing and coordinating the tour, "I can't think of a better time to showcase some of Portland's beautiful historic homes than during the holidays in our Sesquicentennial year,” she said. Tickets in advance are available at Sandborn Real Estate, or day of at the 1105 James St. home.
Full festivities in Downtown Portland kick off at 4 p.m. and feature the Snowball Drop, Horse-Drawn Wagon Rides, Open Houses, Music, Children’s Activities, Santa, Mrs Claus and North Pole Characters, Light Parade, Community Tree Lighting, all wrapped up by a Christmas Gala Concert.
The Snowball Drop begins promptly at 4pm to ring in the festivities at the intersection of Bridge & Kent Streets. Approximately 1,000 Snowballs (numbered ping-pong balls) are released from 15 feet. This event is fun for all ages, as the numbers correspond to a participating business or restaurant and can be redeemed for prizes and discounts.
Sleigh bells are jingling! A crowd favorite are the horse-drawn wagon rides in downtown Portland. Enjoy a beautifully decorated wagon that seats 10-12 people and is pulled by a team of Percheron horses. Rides are available from 4-5:30 p.m. Donations are appreciated. The staging point is at 205 Kent St, just north of City Hall Parking lot before Bridge St.
Open Houses are held throughout the downtown from 4-6:30 p.m. and will include refreshments, music, activities, discounts and more. Santa, Mrs Claus, Elves and North Pole Friends will be mingling with guests throughout downtown. Friends of the Red Mill will again host cookie decorating! Children’s crafts and games will be hosted by area organizations and held at various open locations. Join the scouts at Scout Park to make and enjoy holiday treats by a warm fire!
Don’t forget to take your photo on the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge which is lighted red and green for Christmas. Lights come on shortly after 5pm and the bridge will be closed to traffic until 6:45pm.
Dancing in the Streets will be presented by Opera Block Academy of Dance on the 100 block of Kent St. in front of the Opera House from 5:30 to 5:55pm in anticipation of the Light Parade.
The “Light Parade” event starts at 6 p.m. and includes members of Portland High School’s Marching Band, Santa & Mrs. Claus in the Amish horse-drawn wagon, and lighted floats and entries by many businesses and organizations. The parade starts at Riverside Drive and continues down Kent St, traveling north to turn left onto Grand River Avenue and cross the bridge towards Water St.
Lighting of Portland’s Christmas Tree in Scout Park will occur immediately after the parade, including visits & pictures with Santa & Mrs Claus.
Guests are encouraged to round out their evening at 7pm at the Portland Playhouse taking in the Christmas Gala Concert presented by the Portland Community Orchestra who are joined by the Ionia Community Band.
“Portland opens its doors wide and welcomes everyone to join in the holiday cheer, to gather with family and friends to enjoy a friendly small town during a bright, shiny seasonal celebration,” said Tina ConnerWellman, Executive Director for MiPortland Downtown, noting that one day can’t contain all of the festive joy.
Sunday December 8, 2019 includes a Christmas Farmers Market at Red Mill Pavilion with Santa Visits, Community Blue Christmas Worship Service, and Christmas Tree Lane at the Old Red Mill opens and runs through Christmas. For a complete schedule of these and many other holiday events, please visit the Portland Downtown website at miportland.org, where you can find major events and great local businesses year-round.