Pure Michigan Holiday Tree Lightings

Photo by Valerie Hoffman

Today, nothing evokes the holiday spirit quite like a brightly-lit tree, but light wasn’t part of the original concept.  The celebratory tree tradition traces all the way back to decidedly low-tech 15th century Germany.  The first instance of decorative light – in the form of wax candles – wasn’t recorded for another 300 years.

Candle-lit holiday trees took off as an American tradition after 1850, when a drawing of Queen Victoria’s “Christmas Tree” appeared in Philadelphia’s “Godey’s Lady’s Book.”  Electric lights became a popular trimming after President Coolidge flipped the switch on the first “National Christmas Tree” in 1923.

If you can’t make it to Washington for the lighting of the 89th National Christmas Tree this December 1, there are plenty of towns across Michigan hosting their own tree lighting ceremonies this month and next.  The list below likely includes a celebration near you.

Grand Haven Light Night
November 18, Grand Haven
Enjoy downtown Grand Haven as the lights begin to turn on in the trees for the first time in the holiday season. Participating stores will be holding their holiday open houses with excellent ideas for everyone on your holiday list.

Silver Bells in the City
November 18, Lansing
Celebrate the season with 80,000 attendees of downtown Lansing’s annual electric light parade, including the lighting of Michigan’s official Christmas tree and a beautiful fireworks display cascading over the capitol dome.

Christmas in the Village
November 18 – 19, Manchester
This Manchester event features horse-drawn wagon rides, a parade, Santa greetings, a bake sale, and the annual Christmas tree lighting.

Frankenmuth Holiday Celebration & Candlewalk
November 25, Frankenmuth
The perfect way to start the Christmas season. Hot chocolate and cookies at 6pm. Candlewalk from the River Place to the Chamber Platz for the lighting of the Tannenbaum. Santa will be in the Pavilion from 6:30-8:30pm on Friday, November 25.

Santa’s Arrival & Tree Lighting
November 25, Plymouth
Santa arrives in Kellogg Park, November 25 at 5:40pm with a Christmas carol sing-a-long and tree lighting to follow. After caroling, Santa will be escorted to his house.

Au Gres Chamber of Commerce Annual Christmas Parade
November 26, Au Gres
The tree lighting starts at 5:45 pm, followed by Christmas Parade at 6.  The parade ends at Au Gres City Pavilion, on North Main Street with hot chocolate and Santa visits!

Family Christmas – Muskegon
November 26, Muskegon
Hackley Park hosts the Muskegon tree lighting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  Santa will be there, and hot chocolate and hot dogs available for purchase.

Festival of Lights
November 26, Pentwater
Pentwater is decorated for the season with shopping, dining, carolers, music, chestnuts roasting, horse drawn carriage rides and other fun scheduled throughout the day.  The Pentwater tree lighting and Santa’s arrival takes place on the Village Green at 5 pm.

Santa’s Arrival and Courthouse Lighting
November 29, Midland
Santa’s arrival parade starts at the Tridge at 7:00 pm, followed by the Courthouse lighting ceremony and the opening of Santa’s magical house on Main Street.

Les Cheneaux Old Fashion Christmas
November 25 – December 4, Les Cheneaux
Tree lightings take place on the 25th and 26th, with the Les Cheneaux Holiday Arts and Crafts Bazaar on November 26.

Goodrich’s Downtown Christmas
December 1, Goodrich
The Goodrich tree lighting ceremony includes Santa, choirs, carol singing and the reading of the Christmas story. Throughout the downtown area there will be street vendors, music and more.

Santa’s Arrival in Traverse City
December 2, Traverse City
Santa will join the carols, receive the key to his house from the Traverse City Mayor and then help light the tree at 6 pm, before spending the rest of the evening (6-8 pm) visiting the little ones at his holiday house across at Cass and Front Streets.

Cadillac’s Downtown Storybook Christmas
December 2 – 3, Cadillac
Downtown Cadillac will bustle with activity all weekend. Enjoy store specials, holiday menus and Santa’s arrival before Christmas trees are lit around the lake front.

Victorian Sleigh Bell Parade & Old Christmas Weekend – Manistee
December 1 – 4, Manistee
The Festival of Trees follows an authentic Victorian parade complete with period costumes and horse-drawn units.

Lexington Christmas Tree Lighting & Merchant Candle Walk
December 3, Lexington
Join in the Lexington Christmas Tree Lighting and merchant Candle Walk. Santa arrives at 7 pm, followed by a sing along, trolley rides and more.

Circle of Trees – North Muskegon
December 4, Muskegon
Walker Park in North Muskegon hosts the annual Circle of Trees, including a lighting ceremony, dog parade and community carol sing-a-long.

The Big, Bright Light Show – Rochester
November 28, 2011 – January 1, 2012, Rochester
All the buildings on Main Street from the south bridge to Romeo Rd. will be covered in over a million points of light, along with East and West Fourth Street. Also, there will be large, lighted displays on Walnut from Third to University, The Dazzling Tree of Lights at the Depot Plaza (E. University & Water), and The Snowflake Spectacular on the Western Knitting Mill on Water Street.

Fall for a Pure Michigan Road Trip

The leaves are changing in the Great Lakes State, which can mean only one thing: Fall is here in Pure Michigan!

Now is the perfect time to hit the road and marvel at Michigan second-to-none annual color show of reds, golds, oranges and yellows splashed across the state. No matter where you are in Michigan you’re never more than 85 miles from a Great Lake, and with so many other natural and man-made wonders, from waterfalls to museums, it’s easy to plan a fun-filled road trip that is Pure Michigan.

Take a cruise down these fall color driving routes that follow winding, two-lane roads to scenic spots, historic sites, small towns and recreation areas around the state. Bring the binoculars to wildlife viewing areas along the way, like Pigeon River Country State Forest – home to the largest free-roaming elk herd east of the Mississippi – or venture to the Upper Peninsula to catch a glimpse of free-ranging moose.
For those a little less adventures, there are numerous historic covered bridges throughout the state, including White’s Covered Bridge over the Flat River in Ionia County that dates back to 1867. Don’t forget to plan a shoreline tour to see some of Michigan’s 115 Great Lakes lights and lighthouses; you can even stay at a choice of lighthouse Bed & Breakfast inns overlooking Lake Superior.

While you’re on the road, make sure to stop along the way and taste the many flavors that Pure Michigan has to offer. From cider mills, wineries, artisan breweries, and foodie tours, Michigan has something to please every palate. Microbrew enthusiasts will want to be sure to check out the Detroit Fall Beer Festival at the city’s Eastern Market on Oct. 22, and wine lovers won’t want to miss The Round Barn Winery’s Jammin’ in the Vineyard each Saturday and Sunday through October.

For more events and activities, visit michigan.org and sign up for the free Pure Michigan eNewsletter for updates on fall colors, festivals and events, special promotions, and more.

Michigan: Cider Mill Central

Pure Michigan Apples

Taking a trip to a cider mill is a favorite activity for Michiganders each year. More than 20 million bushels of apples are harvested each year on 950 family-run farms spanning more than 37,000 acres. If you’ve ever had a glass of cider and wondered how exactly those apples become that delicious drink, here’s a quick primer of how cider is typically made:

 

  1. First, thousands of apples are picked. Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Gala and Honey Crisp apples are some favorites in Michigan. About 4.4 pounds of apples are needed to make one liter of cider.
  2. The apples are then soaked in a mild Chlorine Dioxide solution to clean off any residue from the outside. This solution is very similar to water treatments used in city-water systems for drinking.
  3. Next, the apples are rinsed with water and chopped up or ground into small pieces. The result will be a mixture that looks almost like applesauce. The pieces are put onto special blankets or sheets that allow juice to run through them without letting the seeds, skin or pulp slip through.
  4. Then, a press places thousands of pounds of pressure on the blankets to extract the cider, which is collected into canisters.
  5. The cider may then be pasteurized, and then it is bottled for you to enjoy.

Every cider mill follows this process a little bit differently and  may use different combinations of apples, so be sure to check out the process in place at your favorite cider mill when you visit. Following are a number of historic mills from around the state that you can visit this fall. Visit michigan.org for more fall attractions around the state and other fun fall activities to enjoy.

The Historic Dexter Cider Mill near Ann Arbor is the oldest continuously operating cider mill in the state. Today the cider mill keeps its more than 120-year-old cider making tradition by using an oak rack press and blending 3 to 5 different locally grown apple varieties in every pressing. This mill was cited by “Hour Detroit” magazine as one of the 101 places to visit in the greater Detroit Metropolitan area.

The Franklin Cider Mill opened in 1837 as a gristmill and is located in the Franklin Historic District north of downtown Detroit. It has been pressing apples into cider since 1895, and today, all 21 varieties of apples used are hand picked fresh and 100 percent organic. For a special taste sensation, visit in late September for Honey Crisp cider. Take home apple pie, sugar-free apple pie or a bag full of the signature cinnamon spice donuts.

Yates Cider Mill in Rochester Hills has been water-powered since 1863 and presses 300 gallons of fresh blended apple cider per hour. Visitors can also indulge in fresh donuts, apple pies, fudge, apple crisp, jams and more. Yates earned the title of one of the best cider mills in the US by “Forbes Traveler.”

The Historic Parshallville Grist Mill & Cider Mill in Fenton sits nearby North Ore Creek. Built in 1869, the Grist Mill is a Michigan Historic Site. Enjoy fresh cider, donuts, caramel apples, pies and a variety of specialty food items and gifts. The mill is open seven days a week through November with entertainment on Sundays.

Uncle John’s Cider Mill in St. Johns began in the early 1900s when the mill was a cattle barn. Today it offers the sweet scents of cider and donuts. In September and October, explore the five-acre corn maze and straw bale maze, take a wagon ride, walk the nature trail, visit the pumpkin patch or try your hand at the fruit fling, an apple slingshot.

Blake Farms opened in 1946 and was the first “pick-your-own” orchard in Michigan. This Macomb County favorite located in Armada is perfect for a family outing with fresh pressed cider and donuts and a full slate of bakery items from which to choose. Kids can enjoy an animal farm, pony rides, a hayride or picking apples in the orchard with the family. Special attractions are the Haunted Barn and a corn maze.

North of Flint in Mt.Morris is Wolcott Orchards & Cider Mill.  The apple orchard was originally planted more than 100 years ago by the Wolcott family. Enjoy a completely natural cider product — undiluted, unfermented and unsweetened. Families can take a hayride in the orchard. Be sure to call ahead to order your favorite pies.

Sietsema Orchards & Cider Mill in Ada began in Grand Rapids in 1934. In 1995, it moved to its current location in Ada, where the fourth generation of the Sietsema family offers fresh produce, hayrides and plenty of orchards to pick your own apples.

Tucked away in Atwood is Friske Orchards, where three generations of the Friske family grows and harvests approximately 5.5 million pounds of fruit and produce annually. The business started in 1962 in Charlevoix and now offers more than 300 acres of orchards and produces more than 50,000 gallons of cider each year.

If you are taking a trip to the cider mill, let us know about your trip in the comments below. A bite of a Michigan apple is a taste of Pure Michigan.