Experiencing Northern Michigan: Downtown for the Christmas Tree Lighting at Cadillac Commons
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Downtown Cadillac! This past weekend, on November 24, in the heart of the Plaza at Cadillac Commons, hundreds in our community gathered for a festive evening celebrating the start of the holiday season with caroling, hot cocoa, ice skating, and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus at the annual Christmas Tree Lighting. The light display throughout the Commons—the lights adorning the historic Shay Locomotive in particular—and along Lake Cadillac twinkled brilliantly, turning Downtown Cadillac into a magical setting for ringing in the holidays.
This free event is a favorite among local families in Cadillac, and this year’s celebration was held for the first time at the new Cadillac Commons location in the Plaza adjacent to the City Park. The Plaza features an ice skating rink, now open for the winter, plus ample parking and a homey fireplace, making it the perfect community gathering space year-round. As I walked toward the Commons last Friday evening, I heard Christmas caroling and trumpeting emanating down the block, and as I made it to the Plaza and stood with the community, I couldn’t help singing along to a few carols myself.
In Cadillac it was a packed scene reminiscent of the movie Elf when the community comes together in Central Park to catch a glimpse of Santa soaring in his sleigh. The fireplace in the Plaza was toasty warm, and everyone in the audience huddled together to help make the outdoor venue feel cozy. City of Cadillac Mayor Carla Filkins told 9&10 News, “This place is absolutely electrified,” and added, “I think this is the greatest crowd I’ve ever seen down here.” The event started at 5:30pm, and as the sun set over Lake Cadillac, the bundled-up audience grew excited for the night to grow dark enough for the lights to finally glow.
Before the Christmas tree in the Plaza and the lights around the City Park and Lake Cadillac were lit, the crescent moon overlooking downtown shined bright all on its own. Lampposts around the Commons were adorned with Christmas wreaths, festively decorated with clear lights and big red bows. In the crowd, many kids sat up on their parents’ shoulders to get the best view they could of Santa and Mrs. Claus on the stage. It wasn’t long before it was time for the moment everyone had been waiting for: lighting the grand Christmas tree in the Plaza.
It was a beautiful sight, the colorful lights dazzling in the clear Friday night, reflecting off the faces of children eager to line up to sit on Santa’s lap. “You never know how many people are going to show up,” the event emcee said after the lighting of the tree, adding, “We have well over 200 goodie bags”—yet there were more attendees at the event than anyone anticipated. Santa and Mrs. Claus happily greeted the audience as each group of children made their way through the crowd onto the stage to take Christmas card pictures with the guests of honor.
Donations from many Cadillac area businesses and community members made this year’s event possible, including generous donations from: Callahan Supply, which donated the four yards of concrete to fill the tree stand handmade by staff at Cadillac Public Works; Peterson’s Towing, which donated the flatbed that helped transport the tree to the Plaza; Joe’s Tree Service, which provided the crane to lift and load the tree; the Salvation Army, which worked the event serving free hot chocolate to kids and adults all evening; and Chad McBeath and Lynn Herald, a local family who, from their own lawn, cut down the majestic tree and donated it to the city, where it’s now the loveliest centerpiece in the Plaza at Cadillac Commons.
“It was really the community working together to make this event happen,” said Mayor Filkins. “This [community is] wonderful, it’s warm, and it’s giving, and just remembering that as we go into the holiday season is something really special this year.” What is it that makes people pull together for the good of others, of the whole? Call it Christmas spirit or holiday cheer or the season of giving—it’s all these things and more. It’s a genuine community and a sense of family.
Many places throughout Northern Michigan will be hosting their own holiday celebrations over the coming weekends. The much anticipated, first-ever Downtown Traverse City Light Parade before the Community Tree lighting will take place this upcoming Friday, December 1, hosted by Traverse City Tourism’s Jenny Jenness, and the event will be livestreamed on Facebook for all to share thanks to Mane Content, the creative video production division of 9&10 News. I’m as excited as a kid on Christmas morning to experience all the holiday extravaganzas Northern Michigan has in store!