The day after Thanksgiving has marked the traditional arrival of the holidays in Howell for 35 years now with a nighttime parade that attracts more than 25,000 spectators.

The Fantasy of Lights Parade is returning to downtown Howell and this year’s theme is "Wishing You Heartwarming Holidays." It’s tradition for many as the popular nighttime parade marks the arrival of the holiday season and draws thousands of residents and visitors. Activities will begin around 3:45pm Friday and include entertainment, Christmas Alley, live reindeer, visits with Santa and the popular Fantasy 5K run in which participants dress up in fun, festive attire. The parade steps off at 7pm. Howell Public Works Operations Manager Mike Luce is serving as this year’s Fantasy of Lights chairman. Luce says new this year is a partnership with The Alley District in downtown Howell. Santa will magically light the creative, decorated trees in the alley around 3:45pm. Elves will be around to help direct people. Families will then be able to share their wishes with Santa in Christmas Alley, located on State Street. He will greet children starting at 4pm. At the end of the parade, Santa will light the city’s Christmas tree together with the Grand Marshal. Luce tells WHMI the weather looks to be pretty decent and a little warmer than the last few days so he would suggest that people arrive early to find parking, check out Christmas Alley and spend some time downtown before the parade starts.

Howell Main Street Inc. was named the parade Grand Marshal, after receiving the Great American Main Street Award earlier this year. Riding in the parade will be Howell Main Street Chief Operating Officer and Downtown Development Authority Director Cathleen Edgerly as well as Kate Litwin, Howell Main Street Inc.’s Outreach Coordinator. Luce said everyone agreed winning the award was a great honor and it was good to have Cathleen and Kate represent as the grand marshals. A full line-up of activities can be found through the link. (JM)