7 Michigan Light Displays that Will Leave a Twinkle in Your Eyes

The holidays are an extremely busy time of year with all of the parties, shopping and preparations. If you need a break from the hectic nature of the holiday season to take in the scenery, be sure to visit one of these seven great Michigan light displays and possibly create a new family tradition! 

Wayne County Lightfest - Westland

The Wayne County Lightfest in Westland is the largest and longest drive-through holiday light show in the Midwest as it features more than 47 giant animated holiday-themed displays. Lightfest is open through December 31, but be sure to mark your calendars for December 6, 13 and 20 for Toy night where you can bring a new, unwrapped toy in lieu of the entrance fee. Visitors enter Lightfest at Hines Drive and Merriman Road in Westland and exit onto Warren Avenue near Telegraph Road in Dearborn Heights. When you’ve reached the end, don’t forget to stop for a visit to Santa’s Workshop, at Warrendale Park.

Christmas at Crossroads Holiday Magic – Flint

Bundle up and come visit during this special time when thousands of lights sparkle like tiny stars throughout the Crossroads Village. You’ll find villagers making vintage crafts, shops full of great gifts and the beloved Huckleberry Railroad waiting to take you on a festive nighttime ride.  Hurry and buy your tickets now as some times are already sold out. Your whole family will love this holiday celebration that goes through December 30.

Rochester-Lights

The Big, Bright Light Show - Rochester

Brighten your holidays in downtown Rochester with The Big, Bright Light Show, celebrating its 11th anniversary this year. The buildings in downtown Rochester will be covered with more than 1 million points of glimmering holiday light. It will be lit every evening until January 1. As a bonus, the lights will be aglow every weekend in January through the Fire & Ice Festival. Be sure to check out the wonderful Rochester businesses while you gaze at the city’s lit-up beauty.

nite lites

Nite Lites - Jackson

The 2016 season is the 21st year for Nite Lites in Jackson! One of Michigan’s largest Christmas light displays, this animated drive-through display is over one mile long! Each year the Jackson County Fairgrounds are filled with dancing lights featuring scenes with reindeer, Santa Claus and the Nativity among the millions of lights. Winter Wonderland–inside the American 1 Events Center each weekend in December–features many kid-friendly activities. Get your photo taken with Santa Claus himself, watch a holiday puppet show, or take a ride on the kid’s holiday train. Real live reindeer will be stopping by for a special visit on three nights only so plan your visit now.

Christmas Lite Show - Grand Rapids

Through January 2, you can enjoy Michigan’s largest Christmas light show! The Christmas Lite show uses more than 40 animated displays that stretch almost two miles. Now in its 19th year, Christmas Lite Show is a family tradition for thousands of folks in the Grand Rapids area and beyond.

detroit zoo

Wild Lights – Royal Oak

This list wouldn’t be complete without the Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo! Experience the magic of the Detroit Zoo in winter as you take in the lights and the sights and enjoy holiday entertainment and activities for guests of all ages. More than five million LED lights will illuminate trees, buildings and more than 100 animal sculptures throughout the front of the Zoo until December 31. Advance ticket purchase is advised as many nights might sell out.

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Light up the Soo - Sault Sainte Marie

Visit the Tower of History this holiday season and experience the lights of Sault Sainte Marie from 210 feet in the air. Businesses, homes, and area attractions will be decked out in festive lights for your viewing pleasure. Celebrate this wonderful time of year by creating a new family tradition with a trip to the top of the Tower. This light display will start on December 16 and go through December 31.

Which light displays will you be visiting this holiday season?

An Inside Look at Terror on Tillson: A Pure Michigan Halloween Experience

Year after year, visitors flock to a small neighborhood in Romeo, MI to experience Terror on Tillson, one of Michigan’s largest neighborhood funded Halloween attractions!  Today, guest blogger Vicki Lee, a 35-year resident of Tillson Street shares a behind the scenes look at what goes into creating this undeniably unique All Hallow’s Eve experience. 

It’s that time of the year again. A quaint street in the middle of the Historic Village of Romeo, Michigan, transforms from a street lined with majestic maple trees and Historic homes, dating back to the late 1800’s, into a haunted habitat. Once a typical Halloween, with a few scarecrows and some pumpkins and 350 trick-or-treaters, has now evolved into a Halloween Extravaganza!

Photo Courtesy of KDMac Photography

Photo Courtesy of KDMac Photography

Trick-or-treat numbers have risen to about 2,000. Tens of thousands of visitors wander down the street during the last two weeks of October just to get a sight of all the hard work these neighbors put in to make this a memorable experience. Terror on Tillson Street provides a safe, family oriented Halloween experience at zero cost to visitors. The elaborate displays will be mostly completed the weekend of October 24th, although everyone decorates right up until Halloween. Trick or treating is only on October 31st from 6-8pm, but visitors are welcome to stop by and take a gander at the devilish displays beforehand.

Tillson Street is a little more than two blocks long. Most people decorate in some form or another, but it is not a requirement when you move on the street (although many visitors think it is). Most of the time there are about 32 house that do some type of display. This is a neighborhood that plays together, works together and watches out for each other…that’s how it all works. Some of my favorite memories from Halloween on Tillson Street are the times that the neighbors spend time together like one big family. We wind down at the end of the evening and chat about the friendly visitors who strolled through and highlights from the night’s events.

Photo Courtesy of Catherine Povinelli

Photo Courtesy of Catherine Povinelli

Throughout each weekend in October, you will see many neighbors walking from house to house, as help is always needed for some props that are too hard to put up yourself. It is an ongoing preparation for the big finale on Halloween. The neighbors work at their own speed. As most Michiganders know, unpredictable weather always has a way of interfering with our set ups! Most of us have “real” jobs, so you hope you have good weather on the weekends to accomplish everything that needs to happen.  Some tweaking is always going on right up to the time Trick-or-treaters start to arrive.

We always include family and friends in the festivities, which they all look forward to each year. Their help is always much appreciated! At my house, we now have the 4th generation of helpers. My mom, who is 81, pretty much does the supervision role these days, but in a way she started this with me, I was born on Halloween and she always puts a little more effort in the decorations for my sake.

Photo courtesy of Catherine Povinelli

Photo Courtesy of Catherine Povinelli

I continued this with my own children and it has just grown from there. As younger families moved on the street, the bigger our Halloween has become. The creativity of this neighborhood is amazing with the majority of decorations being handmade. Many residents work on their decorations throughout the year, hoping to finish before the next Halloween.

Everything is done by the residents of the street, their timeless hours and their enjoyment to do something very special for a free night out for the families is how this event has become what it is. We all hope everyone enjoys their visit to this one-of-a-kind neighborhood.

Photo Courtesy of Catherine Povinelli

Photo Courtesy of Catherine Povinelli

As my sons grew older and still wanted to be involved with the festivities, they created what is known as the “Bulldog Security” after Romeo High School’s mascot. Bulldog Security is a group of athletes from the high school that patrols the streets on Halloween night keeping an eye for trouble makers (not many to speak of) and lost children (maybe I should say lost parents). At one point these were just young teens wanting to be involved, now we have a few generations of athletes that help us out. Some of these young people come home from college just to be involved! The Village of Romeo has allowed Tillson Street to be blocked off on Halloween night for safety purposes during the 2 hour trick-or-treating time.

This year, Tillson Street has 3 special events that are included in our Halloween. One is the “Buzz Lee Memorial Scholarship Fund.” This was a fund that was started by my late husband with a golf outing to provide a vocational scholarship. When Buzz passed away from a brain tumor, my family and I decided to honor him in this wonderful scholarship that now provides not only a vocational scholarship, but also a pay-to-play scholarship and donations to the Wounded Warrior Project (Buzz was a Vietnam Veteran). We sell a limited edition “TILLSON STREET” Halloween shirt, hot cocoa and cider, can koozies and our very own Tillson Street Cookbook, put together by all the neighbors and friends. ALL proceeds go directly to the Scholarship Fund.

Photo Courtesy of Catherine Povinelli

Photo Courtesy of Catherine Povinelli

We also provide a special event for KKC, “Kids Kicking Cancer.” This will be our 5th year giving kids an afternoon of no worries and a huge amount of fun. We close the street for a couple of hours and the kids and their families come down the street to trick-or-treat. I’m really not sure who has more fun, my neighbors or the kids! This is an event that makes it all worth the hard we put in to the decorations! It has at times been a very emotional day for the neighborhood, but so, so rewarding!

Photo by Heather Monaghan

Photo Courtesy of Heather Monaghan

If you’re planning to visit Tillson Street on Halloween this year, use these tips and information to make the most of your experience: 

-It’s best to walk and see everything, there will be bumper to bumper traffic, so it is very hard to see the displays in your vehicle.

-You never  have to wait in any line, although a line does seem to form during the evening, but that is not planned by anyone!

-Expect the walk to take you at least an hour to get through. There is parking on the street, but this usually hard to find.

-There are parking lots all around Tillson Street for a small donation, but are by no means associated with Tillson Street.

-Tillson Street is free of charge. The only things you might want to purchase are in the tent at 171 Tillson Street with all proceeds going to the scholarship fund.

Have you ever been to Halloween on Tillson Street? What did you think? 

Three Michigan Marauders Who Ruled the Great Lakes

Ahoy! Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day to all you landlubbers out there! You didn’t know it was Talk Like a Pirate Day?  Yarr, you might be walking the plank yet, matey!

Photo by Dave Nowak - Nordmeer Shipwreck Lake Huron

Photo by Dave Nowak – Nordmeer Shipwreck Lake Huron

The Great Lakes were home to some of the most fearsome and burly pirates of any waters on the map.  These swashbucklers ruled the high fresh-water seas and made their living sailing and searching for treasure not known to Jack Sparrow – lumber, illegal alcohol and wild-game meat. Known as Timber Pirates by some, these buccaneers would ship up to the Upper Peninsula to cut down wide areas of timber to sell to industrializing cities east of the state. Alcohol runners would even steal alcohol to sell in Detroit or Chicago, or trade for guns and loot.

Below are some of the most recognized pirates of the Great Lakes. Check them out – if you dare!

Calico Jack

John Rackham – John Rackahm, or Calico Jack as he was often known, is remembered as a small-time pirate from the 1700’s. He would steal anything from cashboxes to entire ships. Calico Jack would wait until a fisherman or woodcutter was away from their ship and sail off with it in the night. This pesky pirate was notorious for his stealthy crimes.

In October 1720, Rackham cruised near Jamaica, capturing numerous small fishing vessels, and terrorizing fishermen along the northern coastline. He came across a small vessel filled with eleven English pirates. Soon after, Rackham’s ship was attacked by an armed sloop and was captured. Rackham and his crew were brought to Jamaica, where he and nearly all of his crew members were sentenced to be hanged.

220px-James_Strang_daguerreotype_(1856)James Jesse Strang – In 1855, a religious gang on Beaver Island burned sawmills and stole $1,600 worth of goods from a local store, under the leadership of “King” James Jesse Strang.

Strang, a self-proclaimed religious leader and king, quickly made foes among his own people, too. One of these, Thomas Bedford, had been flogged for adultery on Strang’s orders, and felt considerable resentment toward the “king.” Another, Dr. H.D. McCulloch, had been excommunicated for drunkenness and other alleged misdeeds, after previously enjoying Strang’s favor and several high offices in local government.

In June of 1856, Strang was waylaid around 7:00 PM on the dock at the harbor of St. James, chief city of Beaver Island, by Wentworth and Bedford, who shot him in the back. Not one person on board the ship made any effort to warn or to aid the intended victim.

Dan SeaveyDan Seavey – The most notorious Great Lakes pirate may be none other than Roaring Dan Seavey, who started as a regular sailor in the U.S. Navy. After leaving the military he found himself a poor man with only his ship, Wanderer, to his name and took up a life of plundering.

Seavey was a thief who had eyes for large shipments of venison and alcohol, to then later sell at a higher price. Anyone who tried to stop him faced the cannon he held on board. Seavey’s most famous escapade was his takeover of a schooner docked named the Nellie Johnson. The clever seaman invited the Johnson’s crew to drink with him, staying mostly sober himself. He then threw the drunken sailors off their ship and sailed it to Chicago, where he sold the Nellie Johnson’s cargo.

Seavey retired sometime in the late 1920s, and settled in the town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin. He died in a Peshtigo nursing home on 14 February 1949 at the age of 84.

Want to know more about these Michigan marauders? Strap on your peg leg and set sail towards one of these maritime attractions to get your fill of pirate personas!

Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum 
Grand Rapids Public Museum’s Real Pirates exhibit 
Alpena Shipwreck Tours

Are you celebrating Talk Like a Pirate Day?