The sounds and smells of Christmas wafted through Campus Martius Park as the 60-foot Michigan-grown Norwegian Spruce was lowered into Cadillac Square on November 2 and Detroit took its first steps toward the magical holiday season. You could smell the pine as the tree was lifted off the truck and hear the sounds as the Salvation Army Band played Christmas carols.
Cut down on October 31 this beautiful spruce made its way to Detroit from the 4-H Kuttenen Center, a Michigan 4-H Foundation conference and retreat facility near Cadillac.
Finding this tree was no easy task, says Marsha Gray from the Michigan Christmas Tree Association. (Yes, we do have one in this state and guess what … Michigan is the nation’s third-largest Christmas tree producer in the nation and is unique in the variety of trees it can grow. We’re also third in total sales with about $40 million annually and second in acreage. North Carolina and Oregon are the other two states that lead in this area.)
In their quest to find this gigantic Michigan tree, Campus Martius and Gray pulled out all the stops. Just as everyone was close to giving up, the Association’s vast grower’s network located the tree with help from Michigan State University Extension and its Christmas Tree Area of Expertise Team. Soon the giant Norwegian Spruce was earmarked for Detroit.
Over the next few weeks it will be decorated with more than 19,000 lights as Campus Martius gets ready for Detroit’s Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on November 18. The tree will shine brightly at the Thanksgiving Day Parade and be on display until January 9. The skating rink at Campus Martius also opens that night and stays open until mid March.
Also opening on November 18 and running for 10 days (Nov. 18-27) will be the Christmas Wonderfest, an outdoor old world shopping market like you’d see in Europe. It will feature unique gifts from cultural institutions across metro Detroit … the Henry Ford Museum, Detroit Historical Museum, Dossin Great Lakes Museum, Wayne State University Press, Pewabic Pottery, Detroit Museum of Contemporary Art, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Motown Historical Museum, the Parade Company, Music Hall Center for Performing Arts, Detroit Public Television, Detroit Artists Market and StreetCorner Music.
What a great place to shop. “Here’s where you can get that special something about Detroit for your family and friends,” said Mark Loeb, the producer of Wonderfest. He hopes Wonderfest will be part of Detroit’s future Christmas celebration as well.
There’s adult magic, too. The market place will also feature a beer garden or as Bob Gregory, president of Detroit 300, which runs Campus Martius, points out, it’s an experience that’s been popular in Germany for more than 500 years … the Hofbrauhaus Biergarten. The garden will serve its original hofbrau beer imported directly from Germany as well as the Christmas market specialty … hot mulled wine.
Here’s a quick “run of show” for the November 18 tree lighting ceremony. The DTE Energy Foundation and DTE Energy are major sponsors.
It begins at 6:30 with the lighting of the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle, which kicks off that fundraising campaign. The Selected of God Choir, which we all remember from Chrysler’s Super Bowl commercial, will sing. There’ll also be music from the Michigan Philharmonic Brass Quintet, the Michigan Opera Theatre Children’s Choir and soloists and the funky Detroit band Nightline, which will perform some Motown Christmas favorites.
Around 8:00 Santa, Mayor Bing and other dignitaries … along with everyone in the park … will light the tree. Following that the skating rink opens and the party begins and runs until midnight with live music from Detroit’s own Wall Clocks.
You can also take a ride on a 50-foot Ferris wheel … or on a carousel pony for those who are more “grounded.”
Let the holiday magic begin.All photo credits: Karpov the Wrecked Train