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 celebrates 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. 

Treasure Hunting for Michigan-themed Antiques

Summer is the perfect time of year to find hidden gems at Michigan’s many antique shops and markets. Today, Dianna Stampfler of Promote Michigan fills us in on the treasures she’s found at the Allegan Antiques Market.

Do you have a favorite flea market or antique shop in Michigan? Share with us in the comments section below!

For many, summer in Michigan is meant for beachcombing, boating, biking, golfing and enjoying the great outdoors of Pure Michigan. It’s also a prime season for exploring the area’s flea markets, antique shops and yard sales.

One of my favorite places for treasure hunting is the Allegan Antiques Market, held the last Sunday of each month (April through September) at the Allegan County Fairgrounds. Touted as one of the largest markets in the Midwest, more than 400 vendors (both inside and out) spread around the fairgrounds selling everything from large scale furniture to glassware to postcards.

Over the years, I’ve established quite a routine when it comes to this event. Sometimes my visits are short and sweet, but often I find myself getting lost in the variety of booths for three or four hours. Despite repeated requests from family and friends to join in the adventure, it’s something I (selfishly) prefer to do solo. I like going at my own pace, without worrying about a guest who is bored 10 minutes into the day, and getting lost in the nostalgia of it all.

While I rarely have something specific I’m looking for, I always seem to find “just the right thing” to add to my collection. Items featuring Michigan receive top attention of course – especially travel brochures and magazines, food and agriculture focused pieces, unique license plates and slightly-rusted signs. I’m also drawn to cottage- and beach-themed décor, garden art and things that are red (the primary accent color in my home).

This past April, a couple treasures found their way into my heart (and ultimately into my bag). A wooden dachshund with “Frankenmuth Beer” in faded paint was a steal at just $5 (even with its chipped tail – which to me, adds to its character). I also scored 5 juice-size glasses adorned with red roosters – perfect for sampling my favorite made-in-Michigan spirits – for $7.

Over the years, my visits to Allegan have yielded some of my most treasured finds. A 5-foot red bench now serves as a coffee table in my living room; a red and black hinged checkerboard hangs on the diagonal on the dining room wall (next to my family’s original Michigan-made Carrom board); an eight-sided jar holds a collection of marbles purchased at my grandmother’s estate auction; a red wooden stool stands proudly in my kitchen.

I’ve also amassed a large number of postcards – highlighting travel destinations around the state of Michigan, from the early 1900s. Despite their small size, these can be quite expensive. Typically, I limit myself to $5 per card, but I’ve been known to drop $25 for a rare find. 

Another highlight of the market is the opportunity to indulge on fair fare – and even here, habits are hard to break. Midway through my shopping, I stop for a steak sandwich with onions (and A1 sauce), fries and a Dr. Pepper. Then, before heading back to my car – it’s a stop at the elephant ear booth for dessert to go.

The Allegan Antiques Market runs on the last Sunday of each month (April through September) from 8am to 4pm at the Allegan County Fairgrounds. Admission is $4 per person; parking is free.

Tips for shopping at the Allegan Antiques Market

  • Wear comfortable shoes, there is lot of walking both on paved pathways and grass (where roots, acorns and other items gather).
  • Bring a tote or wheeled-bag to carry your treasures.
  • Bring cash. There is no ATM and most vendors are not able to process credit cards.
  • Don’t be afraid to barter on price – many vendors are willing to negotiate (especially later in the season).
  • Make sure you have room in your car – in case you find something “big” to haul home.

Dianna Stampfler of Promote Michigan inherited her love of history, collecting and antiques from her father (a local historian and genealogist) and grandparents. She lives in Plainwell, just blocks from the family home where she was raised.