TRAVERSE CITY — If you’ve never driven the 65 miles southwest to Manistee for the city’s Victorian Sleighbell Parade & Old Christmas Weekend there’s an extra reason to make the trip this year.
The festival’s 25th anniversary weekend, Dec. 5-8, coincides with the reopening of the historic Vogue Theatre.
“People have been dying for the Vogue Theatre to reopen and it’s finally happening, so there’s a lot of buzz out there,” said theater manager Travis Alden, who will help preside over a ceremonial lighting of the Vogue marquee at 10 a.m. Saturday. “There’s a whole lot of people who haven’t seen this theater in years.”
Theater open house tours, free family movies and first-run paid screenings will accompany dozens of Old Christmas Weekend activities today through Sunday. Highlights include a gingerbread house contest, period carolers, concerts, gaslight tours of the historic Babcock House, a 140-vendor craft show and the signature Victorian Sleighbell Parade down River Street.
“It’s a long, slow parade because there’s no motorized vehicles,” said Kathryn Kenny, executive director of the Manistee County Visitors Bureau. “There’s horses and animals, everyone in the parade dresses in Victorian costume, and a dog sled team kicks off the parade.”
Bringing up the rear is the Community Christmas Tree, pulled on a sleigh by logger Larry Reed and his team of Belgian horses. Because of injuries he sustained in a logging accident this summer, the 75-year-old Reed is passing on the reins he’s held for more than 20 years to son, Ben, this year. Larry will preside over the parade as grand marshal instead, Kenny said.
“When the tree passes, everyone falls in and follows it to the west end of River Street and Fountain Plaza,” where the tree is lit for a community Christmas-carol sing, Kenny said. Caroling will be followed by fireworks for the second time in the parade’s history.