Seven Michigan Holiday Movies Worth a Watch

Photo by Heather McFarland, Garland Resort

Photo by Heather McFarland, Garland Resort

With the holidays just around the corner, what could be better than an evening spent curled up on the couch with a steaming mug of hot cocoa and some classic holiday flicks?

If a cozy night in is on your agenda in the coming weeks, give this list of holiday movies with ties to Michigan a look. Dianna Stampfler of Promote Michigan shares seven Michigan holiday films worth a watch this season. 

The Polar Express
Written by Grand Rapids native Chris Van Allsburg and prominently featuring the city and noted businesses like Herpolsheimer’s downtown department store, this classic movie celebrated its 10th year in 2014.

Polar_expressThe star of the show is the Pere Marquette 1225, a steam locomotive which was recently restored and put back in operation in 2013 at the Steam Railroad Institute in Owosso. Seasonal excursions aboard the “North Pole Express” are extremely popular with families, selling out in advance of the holiday season.

One of the animated elves was played by actor Ed Gale, who graduated from Plainwell High School in the 1980s. (Ed also appeared in “Call Me Claus” and “Santa, Jr.”).

The world premiere of The Polar Express was held in 2004 at Celebration Cinema IMAX in Grand Rapids, with an elaborate post viewing party at DeVos Place downtown. Actor Peter Scolari (who played the “lonely boy” Billy) and Van Allsburg were both in attendance for the festivities, along with Santa Claus (of course).

Prancer
Filmed in the Berrien County town of Three Oaks, this 1989 film starred Sam Elliott, Cloris Leachman and young Rebecca Harrell—an eight year old farm girl who discovers one of Santa’s reindeer has fallen from a downtown decoration and come to life. She later nurses the wounded reindeer, hoping to bring it back to health in time for Christmas, while inspiring the community with her spirit. Prancer celebrates its 25th anniversary this year!

The Santa Clause (I, II and III)
SantaClause2All starring Tim Allen, who was raised in southeast Michigan, attended Western Michigan University, has owned several homes around the state and is the voice of the Pure Michigan TV and radio ads. The movie itself is actually set in Chicago.

The trilogy was first introduced 20 years ago in 1994 (followed by sequels in 2004 and 2006), the story follows the life of Scott Calvin—who inadvertently kills Santa on Christmas eve and magically finds himself taking over the role of the big guy himself.

Sequel #1 shows Scott Calvin settling well into his role as Santa, but a new twist may bring his reign to an end if he doesn’t find a Mrs. Claus before Christmas Eve. Sequel #2—The Escape Claus follows Santa and Mrs. (Carol) Claus and the pending arrival of their first child together, as well as a plot by Jack Frost to take over the helm at the North Pole.

The Christmas Bunny
Filmed entirely in Michigan, this is the story of a lonely foster child who finds a lost, injured rabbit in the woods on Christmas Eve. The animal is nursed back to health by the eccentric “Bunny Lady” (played by Florence Henderson), who runs a rabbit rescue in an old barn behind her Michigan farmhouse.

The movie was filmed during a snowy February and March, 2010 in several West Michigan rural towns—including Lowell, Alto, Wyoming and Zeeland. It was directed by Grand Rapids native Tom Seidman (Ordinary People, Dead Poets Society), and was his first movie filmed in West Michigan.

Silver Bells
SilverBellsProduced in association with the Salvation Army and filmed in Manistee, Grand Rapids and Ludington, this 2013 film stars Bruce Boxleitner (Scarecrow & Mrs. King, Babylon 5).

According to a production release, the holiday story revolves around a hyper-competitive feather and overly win-driven sportscaster who goes too far and must perform community service as a bell ringer. Through his work with the Salvation Army, he discovers the true meaning of Christmas. The charity played a pivotal role throughout the film as the family volunteers with the organization in various ways.

Michigan filmmaker Harold Cronk directed the project and 10 West Studios lead the prost production efforts to keep the entire project in Michigan, qualifying it for state film incentives.

Do you know any other holiday favorites that have ties to Michigan? 

Dianna Stampfler is the president of Promote Michigan and former board member of the West Michigan Film Video Alliance. 

Try These Pure Michigan Wine Pairings For Your Thanksgiving Meal

Did you know that Michigan grows more than 50 different grape varieties? As you’re planning your holiday menu, there’s sure to be one variety that suits your fancy. Guest blogger Karel Bush from the Michigan Wine and Grape Industry Council shares some Pure Michigan wine pairings for your Thanksgiving meal. 

Photo courtesy of Michigan Wines - Bowers Harbor Vineyards

Photo by Jeff Greenberg – Bowers Harbor Vineyards

There’s no better way to celebrate the season and Michigan’s agricultural bounty than to include Michigan wines on your holiday shopping list. Whether served at your own table or presented as a gift to friends and family, sharing local wines is a tradition all over the world.

There are many different savory flavors and levels of sweetness in a traditional Thanksgiving feast, so don’t limit yourself to just one wine – have some fun with your wine selection. Most holiday gatherings include a variety of people with a variety of tastes when it comes to wine – another reason to offer a few different selections.

Sparkling

Photo by Jeff Greenberg

Photo by Jeff Greenberg

Start out with bubbles! Aurora Cellars Brut received Best of Class Sparkling honors at the 2014 competition. It’s crisp with lovely aromatics of toasted brioche and roasted nuts. A bright, dry finish makes this the perfect way to start the celebration.

White

With traditional roast turkey and stuffing, the go-to choice is often a dry Riesling, but Pinot Grigio also makes a great pairing. Many Michigan wineries produce these varieties. Try Blustone Vineyards or Fenn Valley Vineyards for Riesling; Boathouse Vineyards or St. Julian Winery for Pinot Grigio.

There are always sweet elements on the holiday table, so consider adding a semi-dry Riesling or Gewurztraminer to the mix. Try semi-dry Rieslings from Gill’s Pier Vineyard and Winery or White Pine Winery, and Gewurztraminer from Peninsula Cellars or Tabor Hill Winery. For a fun alternative, try a Traminette – an offspring of Gewurz – from Sandhill Crane Vineyards or 12 Corners Vineyards.

Red

Photo by Steve Sadler

Photo by Steve Sadler

Pinot Noir or another soft, flavorful red is an excellent choice, especially if your traditional bird is duck or goose. Try first-rate examples from Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery or Round Barn Winery. Delight your guests with a variety they might not be familiar with, like Chateau Grand Traverse Gamay Noir; or try one of the many delicious red blends made in Michigan, like “Sole di Sera” from Northern Sun Winery, and Lawton Ridge Winery’s “Two Handed Red.”

Dessert

Last, but certainly not least, for Aunt Jenny’s pumpkin pie try a sweeter wine like Black Star Farms’ Arcturos Winter Harvest Riesling. Or for a real treat, try “Snow Moon” – a delicious, decadent Vidal Blanc ice wine from Lemon Creek Winery (makes an incredible gift, too).

You can contact any of the Michigan wineries to have your favorite wine delivered right to your door. Be sure to order an extra bottle or two (or six) for gifts. Visit www.michiganwines.com for a complete list of Michigan wineries.

Which Pure Michigan wines do you plan to enjoy with your holiday meal? 

Karel Bush is promotion specialist for the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council, a program within the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

 

 

An Inside Look at Terror on Tillson: Michigan’s Largest Neighborhood Funded 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 34-year resident of Tillson Street shares a behind the scenes look at what goes into creating this undeniably unique All Hallow’s Eve experience. 

Photo by KDMac Photography

Photo by KDMac Photography

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!

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.

Photo by Heather Monaghan

Photo by Heather Monaghan

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.

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.

Photo courtesy of Catherine Povinelli

Photo courtesy of Catherine Povinelli

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.

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.

Photo courtesy of Catherine Povinelli

Photo courtesy of Catherine Povinelli

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.

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.

Photo courtesy of Catherine Povinelli

Photo courtesy of Catherine Povinelli

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.

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 courtesy of 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?