Full of holiday cheer

A host of holiday events hit Alger County last weekend, ranging from parades, charitable efforts, “shop local” programs and numerous opportunities to see Santa and Mrs. Claus. Most of the events happened at the same time on Saturday, Dec. 3, but shared an abundance of The popular downtown Munising event Rekindle the Spirit was held in person for the first time post-pandemic.

“It was so great to be back in person, with a good crowd showing up for the evening,” Alger Chamber of Commerce/Greater Munising Bay Partnership Director Kathy Reynolds said. “People had a good time, which is important this time of year.”

The last two years saw an abbreviated version of the event with a drive-thru Santa Claus visit at the old Huntington Bank building. Instead of receipts turned in for raffles, gift cards were given to those seen leaving local businesses. Now the event is back to full swing.

Reynolds said that businesses in Munising are buying into the event by either decorating their business fronts for the decorating contest or by providing space to meet holiday characters. The line at Peoples State Bank went outside the building and out towards the street long past the event was advertised to end at 7:30 p.m.. The Munising Moose Lodge and Jamadots also had walkthrough experiences while other stores like Putvins, Bald Eagle Harley-Davidson and Gallery Coffee Company stayed open for the event.

“Each year its been getting bigger because businesses are decorating,” Reynolds said. “It makes the downtown look better than ever for the holidays and we’re all appreciative of the businesses participating.”

Receipts for any Alger County business from Trenary to Grand Marais can be entered into the daily and final drawings at the Fuzzy Boyak Welcome Center in Munising. Each person gets one entry for every $50 spent locally.

Firefighters fill the truck

Sirens rang out in Au Train, Munising and Munising Township as local volunteer firefi ghters held their annual Fill the Fire Trucks food drive. According to Munising City Fire Chief Red Anderson, the event was a success.

“Every year it seems we’re getting more and more people donating, which is good for the community,” he said.

Firefighters went to different local neighborhoods on Saturday, Dec. 3 to provide a pickup opportunity to donate food instead of having people drop off the non-perishable items directly to a food pantry or drop off location. The sirens helped people know when to come out with their donations while snow came down hard at the beginning of the drive.

Roughly 60 people volunteered with the food drive, ranging from girl scouts, families of firefighters and the Munising boys basketball team.

“We really couldn’t do this without people willing to give their time and help out,”Anderson said.

Chatham continues annual parade

Roughly 300 people took part of the Chatham Small Town Christmas, a multifaceted holiday event with a parade, craft show and time with Santa.

“I think the Chatham Small Town Christmas was very successful and the turnout was better than expected,” organizer Tammy Barrows said. “We captured the small town feel by giving people an option to come to our Christmas parade and stay local for the day.”

The most prominently featured part of the event was the parade, which was longer than the parade at Rekindle due to marching units and business interaction, but had fewer watchers. Leaving the Sion Lutheran Church, the parade went through Downtown Chatham before reaching the Rock River Township Fire Hall.

This year debuted the craft show, which had baked goods and handmade items available to stuff stockings. Approximately 15 vendors with more donating baked goods filled the fire hall since the township hall and library were already booked for a private event.

“People loved our first craft show. The vendors offered a variety of goods that were unique and affordable,” Barrows said.

This was the third year of the event, but organizers are hoping to keep increasing opportunities for families to enjoy.

“Every year we try to grow a little bit more and next year will be no different. The hope is to make this a lasting Christmas tradition for our community,” Barrows said.

Legion children’s event sets attendance record

The American Legion annual Christmas Party was packed on Saturday, with the organizers running out of toys near the end of the event.

“It was kind of overwhelming as this was the biggest crowd in years,” said co-organizer Kandee Wyatt said. “We ran out of baby toys and we had never run out before, so that was very nice to see so many people come.”

The event had food, a cookie decorating station, games and raffl es for extra toys. Families taking photos with the Claus’s got to take a photo home as well.

This was the second year of the event since the pandemic, but Christmas at the Legion is one of the longest holiday events in Alger County. Wyatt and Virg Cota have taken charge this year after Joyce Johns organized it for roughly two decades.

Wyatt played Mrs. Claus at the event, with her husband Don as Santa. While Rekindle also had Mrs. Claus, Wyatt said that having both characters added a level of comfort for some of the younger children that may be apprehensive of Jolly St. Nick.

“Some of the kids like Mrs. Claus more than Mr. Claus. Sometimes they’ll sit in my lap and talk to him or (Santa) looks at the child and says ‘why don’t you take this one’,” she said.

According to organizers, Christmas at the Legion uses the holiday as a way to keep the community close and active at the holiday season.

“It’s much deeper (than just a Christmas giveaway). Kids need the social interaction and the whole spirit of everything,” Wyatt said. “We throw a nice party and everyone walks away happy.”

Holiday overload?

Three of these events happened in a five-hour window on Saturday with Rekindle the Spirit on Thursday night. Unfortunately, with the exception of a few private events, it appears Santa is moving on from Alger County.

While all organizers are proud of their events, it creates a concern that the public is forced to choose one event over the other, limiting how much good and holiday cheer can be shared.

Each event has a set date, with Rekindle exactly a week after Thanksgiving. The Fill the Firetruck drive is held on the same day as the MVFD holiday party, making it a day-long celebration of service and brotherhood. Chatham’s Small Town Christmas is the newest event, but have run more years in a row due to the pandemic, while the Christmas at the Legion is the longest running event, but the only one limited to just one indoor venue.

According to Reynolds, there are advantages for winter outdoor events to start earlier in the month due to weather.

“You get iffy weather and then have to cancel and the holiday has already come and gone before you get a chance to do it,” she said.

Sometimes reserving the talent for different Santa Clauses can be difficult. For Wyatt, she will be appearing as Mrs. Claus at other private events throughout the month as businesses, church congregations and organizations have their own holiday parties.

“We’ve always had the same date, so we never thought we would have to move (Christmas at the Legion), so we can go out and do other things too,” she said.