Manistee’s Victorian Sleighbell Parade and Old Christmas Weekend

The Manistee Victorian Sleighbell Parade and Old Christmas Weekend isn’t just a holiday event. It is the holiday event of the season. People have flown in from California and other states across the nation just for this festival. What makes it so special, you may ask? Take a look at the impressive lineup of events that includes the Victorian Sleighbell Parade (complete with draft horses pulling a 30-foot Christmas tree down River Street), a Festival of Trees, A Tuneful Christmas Carol at the historic Ramsdell Theatre, guided tours of the 1894 Lumber Baron Mansion and Christmas cookie and wine pairings! (We know it’s a long list, but it really is worth the scroll. There are some awesome events happening for all ages.)

2017 Event Schedule

Thursday, November 30

CHRISTMAS AT THE LYMAN BUILDING
10 a.m.–5 p.m. | Manistee Co. Historical Museum | 425 River St.
Revel in the traditions of Manistee Christmas long ago with exhibits featuring antique decorations, lights and various holiday displays. Admission: Students $1, Adults $3, Families $8

CHRISTMAS COOKIE & WINE PAIRING
Noon–6 p.m. | Douglas Valley Downtown | 431 River St.
Milk and cookies are child’s play? How about pairing your favorite Christmas cookie with wine? Now that’s a treat even Santa would approve. $15 per person.

TOUR OF THE JAMES DEMPSEY MANSION
1 p.m., 2 p.m. & 3 p.m. on the hour | 506 Maple St.
Enjoy a guided tour of this historic 1894 Lumber Baron Mansion, which now houses the Dempsey Manor Bed and Breakfast Inn and Victorian Tea Room. You’ll also “meet” James and Mary Dempsey, two of Manistee’s most prominent Victorian-era residents. Reserve at 616-802-4588. Per person admission: $12 in advance and $17 at the door. For a preview, visit dempseymanorbandb.com.

BUSINESS AFTER HOURS
5:30–7:30 p.m. | Ramsdell Theatre Ballroom | 101 Maple St.
Preview the Festival of Trees with delicious hors d’oeuvres and holiday music. Bring a can good/animal food to vote for your favorite entry. Bring an unwrapped toy for Toys for Tots/Gift for Teens for a chance to win a drone. Admission is $10 per person, or register online and it’s $9.

TODD & BRAD REED PHOTOGRAPHY
5:30–7:30 p.m. | Ramsdell Theatre Hardy Hall | 101 Maple St.
Enjoy photography works from the iconic Northern Michigan father-son-team.

HISTORIC VOGUE THEATRE OPEN HOUSE
Noon | Vogue Theatre | 383 River St.

MANISTEE CHORAL SOCIETY’S VICTORIAN DESSERT CONCERT
7 p.m. | First Congregational Church | 412 4th St.
Manistee Choral Society’s Victorian concert, resplendent with period costumes and refreshments, opens the Manistee Sleighbell weekend. Tickets ($10) available at Goody’s or by calling 231-723-7536.

“A TUNEFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL”
7:30 p.m. | Ramsdell Theatre | 101 Maple St.
The Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts will be presenting a tuneful rendition of the classic tale, A Christmas Carol, adapted and directed by area favorite, Dr. Rick Plummer. Each performance will be dedicated to a local non-profit. Partnering with the RRCA for this year are Toys for Tots/Gifts for Teens, Homeward Bound, Love Inc and One Pantry. Audience members will be able to snap a photo with Santa when they donate goods to the featured nonprofit of the evening. The RRCA will also be donating 20% of the show profits to each nonprofit. Purchase your tickets at MyNorthTickets.com or by calling 1-800-836-0717.

Friday, December 1

ASHTON CIGAR HOLIDAY EXPERIENCE
9 a.m.–3 p.m. | 423 River St.

CHRISTMAS AT THE LYMAN BUILDING
10 a.m.–7 p.m. | Manistee Co. Historical Museum | 425 River St.
Revel in the traditions of Manistee Christmas long ago with exhibits featuring antique decorations, lights and various holiday displays. Admission: Students $1, Adults $3, Families $8

RAMSDELL THEATER TOURS
11 a.m.–1 p.m. | Ramsdell Theatre | 101 Maple St.
Learn about important figures such as Thomas Jefferson Ramsdell, the philanthropist; Solon Beman, the architect; Fredrick Winthrop Ramsdell, the painter; among others. Also find out what this building means to the community and how it helped launch the career of two distinguished actors, James Earl Jones and Toni Trucks. Admission $5. Call 231-398-9770 to schedule your tour.

CHRISTMAS COOKIE & WINE PAIRING
Noon–6 p.m. | Douglas Valley, Downtown | 431 River St.
Milk and cookies are child’s play? How about pairing your favorite Christmas cookie with wine? Now that’s a treat even Santa would approve. $15 per person.

TOUR OF THE JAMES DEMPSEY MANSION
1 p.m., 2 p.m. & 3 p.m. on the hour | 506 Maple St.
Enjoy a guided tour of this historic 1894 Lumber Baron Mansion, which now houses the Dempsey Manor Bed and Breakfast Inn and Victorian Tea Room. You’ll also “meet” James and Mary Dempsey, two of Manistee’s most prominent Victorian-era residents. Reserve at 616-802-4588. Per person admission: $12 in advance and $17 at the door. For a preview, visit dempseymanorbandb.com.

COOKIE FUN FOR EVERYONE
1–6 p.m. | United Methodist Church | 387 First St.
Purchase cookies and decorate them with frosting and sprinkles. Prices are $6 for a half dozen cookies and $11 for a full dozen. Proceeds go toward the Manistee County Habitat for Humanity.

FESTIVAL OF TREES
1–8 p.m. | Ramsdell Theatre Ballroom | 101 Maple St.
Creatively decorated Christmas trees, wreaths and other seasonal decor designed by local holiday enthusiasts. You can bid on these holiday treasures and bring a canned good/animal food to vote for your favorite entry. Bring an unwrapped toy for Toys for Tots/Gift for Teens for a chance to win a drone. Free admission.

DOWNTOWN SOUP COOK-OFF
4–6:30 p.m. | Downtown Manistee
Explore the shops of downtown Manistee and try 16 fresh soups! Results and prizes will be announced at Blue Fish Kitchen + Bar at 7 p.m.

TODD & BRAD REED PHOTOGRAPHY
1–7:30 p.m. | Ramsdell Theatre Hardy Hall | 101 Maple St.
Enjoy photography works from this iconic Northern Michigan father-son team. Special reception being held in Hardy Hall at 5 p.m.

INVOGUE BRASS ENSEMBLE
5–6 p.m. | 390 River St.

KIDS & KUPKAKES
6:30–7:45 p.m. | Ramsdell Theatre Ballroom Balcony | 101 Maple St.
Bring your child or grandchild to decorate cupcakes with Culinary Artist Connie Watson. The $30 admission includes supplies, 6 cupcakes and step-by-step instruction. Register online at manisteechamber.com. Proceeds from this event benefit the Armory Youth Project.

“A TUNEFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL”
7:30 p.m. | Ramsdell Theatre | 101 Maple St.
Read event description on November 30. Purchase your tickets at MyNorthTickets.com or by calling 1-800-836-0717.

“THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER”
7:30 p.m. | Manistee High School | 525 12th St.
A hilarious Christmas tale perfect for all ages! A couple struggling to put on a church Christmas pageant is faced with casting the Herdman kids—probably the most inventively awful kids in history. You won’t believe the mayhem, and the fun, when the Herdmans collide with the Christmas story head on! Visit manisteecivicplayers.org for ticket information.
Ticket prices: $18–$20.

Saturday, December 2

JINGLE BELL JOG 5K RUN/WALK
10 a.m. | Kennedy Elementary School | 550 Maple St.
$22 on race day, all entrants receive a T-shirt or a hat. Proceeds go to Manistee Schools Cross-Country Program. For more information, visit runmanistee.blogspot.com or call Eric at 231-233-1433.

SLEIGHBELL BAZAR AND CRAFT SHOW
9 a.m.–4 p.m. | Manistee High School | 525 Twelfth St.
Explore the fine crafts and arts of over 150 area artists. Free admission.

VOGUE THEATRE TOURS & FREE MOVIES
10 a.m.-5 p.m. | Vogue Theatre | 383 River St.
Enjoy free hot chocolate and take in a holiday classic. See the complete event schedule at voguetheatremanistee.org.

CHRISTMAS AT THE LYMAN BUILDING
10 a.m.–7 p.m. | Manistee Co. Historical Museum | 425 River St.
Revel in the traditions of Manistee Christmas long ago with exhibits featuring antique decorations, lights and various holiday displays. Admission: Students $1, Adults $3, Families $8.

PARENTS & PAINT
10 a.m.–noon |Ramsdell Theatre Ballroom Balcony | 101 Maple St.
Bring your child or grandchild to paint with local artist Tami Roth. The $45 admission includes supplies, one canvas, instructions and refreshments! Register online at manisteechamber.com. Proceeds from this event benefit the Armory Youth Project.

COOKIE FUN FOR EVERYONE
10 a.m.–3 p.m. | United Methodist Church | 387 First St.
Purchase cookies and decorate them with frosting and sprinkles. Prices are $6 for a half dozen cookies and $11 for a full dozen. Proceeds go toward the Manistee County Habitat for Humanity.

CHRISTMAS CRAFT FUN FOR KIDS!
11 a.m.–2 p.m. | Lighthouse Pregnancy Center | 215 Maple St.
Holiday crafts to make and take! Children ages 3–8 years.

RAMSDELL THEATER TOURS
11 a.m.–1 p.m. | Ramsdell Theatre | 101 Maple St.
Learn about important figures such as Thomas Jefferson Ramsdell, the philanthropist; Solon Beman, the architect; Fredrick Winthrop Ramsdell, the painter; among others. Also find out what this building means to the community and how it helped launch the career of two distinguished actors, James Earl Jones and Toni Trucks. Admission $5. Call 231-398-9770 to schedule your tour.

WINTER FLAVORED COFFEE SAMPLES
11 a.m.–5 p.m. | Swankyz | 419 River St.

CHRISTMAS COOKIE & WINE PAIRING
Noon–6 p.m. | Douglas Valley, Downtown | 431 River St.
Milk and cookies are child’s play? How about pairing your favorite Christmas cookie with wine? Now that’s a treat even Santa would approve. $15 per person.

TODD & BRAD REED
1 p.m.–7:30 p.m. | Ramsdell Theatre Hardy Hall | 101 Maple St.
Enjoy photography works from the iconic Northern Michigan father-son-team.

SCANDINAVIAN CHRISTMAS
11 a.m.–2 p.m. | Danish Lutheran Church | 304 Walnut St.
Discover the history and beauty of the first Danish Lutheran Church in American and enjoy homemade Danish cookies and other treats.

SLEIGHBELL BASH
11 a.m.–11 p.m. | North Channel Brewery | 89 Washington St.
Check out Manistee’s new brewery. You don’t want to miss out on this night of surprises and giveaways!

CARRIAGE RIDES DOWN RIVER ST.
Noon–4 p.m. | 356 River St.
Free admission. First come, first serve carriage rides will be provided by a team of Percherons and a team of Clydesdale Hackney Pony Cross provided by The Common Gentry Carriage Co.

HISTORIC TOUR OF ST. PAUL’S LUTHERAN CHURCH
Noon–2 p.m. | 313 Fourth St.
Free admission, hot cocoa and cookies.

MEET THE GRINCH
Noon–1 p.m. | Happy Owl Bookshop | 358 River St.
Stay for local author book signings following the event.

CANVAS & CHEER
1–3 p.m. | Ramsdell Theatre Ballroom Balcony | 101 Maple St.
Bring a friend and unwind as you learn to paint with local artist Tami Roth. The $45 admission includes supplies, one canvas, instruction and refreshments. Register online at manisteechamber.com. Proceeds from this event benefit the Manistee County Council on Aging.

TOUR OF THE JAMES DEMPSEY MANSION
1 p.m., 2 p.m. & 3 p.m. on the hour | 506 Maple St.
Enjoy a guided tour of this historic 1894 Lumber Baron Mansion, which now houses the Dempsey Manor Bed and Breakfast Inn and Victorian Tea Room. You’ll also “meet” James and Mary Dempsey, two of Manistee’s most prominent Victorian-era residents. Reserve at 616-802-4588. Per person admission: $12 in advance and $17 at the door. For a preview, visit dempseymanorbandb.com.

SANTA’S HEADQUARTERS
1–4 p.m. | Manistee Municipal Marina
Santa himself will be there for photo ops and to receive Christmas lists from all the good girls and boys. He will also be back following the parade.

FESTIVAL OF TREES
1–8 p.m. | Ramsdell Theatre Ballroom | 101 Maple St.
Free admission.

INVOGUE BRASS ENSEMBLE
1:30–2:30 p.m. & 3–4 p.m. | 390 River St.

CHRISTMAS TEA AT THE BUCKLEY HOUSE
2–4 p.m. | 450 Cedar St.
Enjoy a lavish Christmas tea in the third-floor ballroom of one of Manistee’s premier Victorian homes. Three full tea courses will be served in a relaxing and charming atmosphere. After the meal, a complete tour of the home will be given. Reservations must be made by Tuesday, November 28, by calling 231.398.2561. $35 per person.

MAXWELLTOWN BRASS
2–4 p.m. | Corner of Oak and River St.
MaxwellTown Brass was assembled to honor the rich traditions and culture of Maxwelltown in Victorian Manistee. Several members of MaxwellTown Brass were born and raised there, and currently reside here throughout West Michigan. Their diverse musical backgrounds come alive to bring “Sounds of the Season” to the Victorian Sleighbell Parade and Old Christmas Weekend.

CHRISTMAS AT MOVING SPIRITS
3–5:30 p.m. | Moving Spirits | 429 River St.
Complimentary wine samples, coconut macaroons and chocolate biscotti from Two Slices and Celtic harpist Anne MacNeil.

MERRY TROMBONES
4–5:15 p.m. | 390 River St.

ROASTED CHESTNUTS
4:30–7:30 p.m. | Downtown Manistee on River Street

VICTORIAN SLEIGHBELL PARADE
5:30 p.m. | Downtown Manistee on River Street
Experience one of Michigan’s most memorable holiday traditions. This authentic parade features horse drawn carriages, turn-of-the-century characters, a 30-foot Christmas tree pulled by a horse team, an elf on stilts, high school marching bands and a German organ player. The parade concludes in downtown’s West End near the fountain with community caroling, lighting of the tree and luminaries display.

CAROLING & LUMINARIES FOLLOWING THE PARADE
Downtown’s West End near the fountain
1,000 luminaire candles will be distributed at the end of the parade route to the crowd by Sleighbell Ambassadors and classic Christmas carols will fill the air as we light the community Christmas tree.

FREE HOT CHOCOLATE & POPCORN
5:30–7 p.m. | United Way of Manistee | 449 River St.

“A TUNEFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL”
WITH SPECIAL PERFORMANCE BY MISS MICHIGAN, HEATHER KENDRICK
7:30 p.m. | Ramsdell Theatre | 101 Maple St.
The Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts will be presenting a tuneful rendition of the classic tale, A Christmas Carol, adapted and directed by area favorite, Dr. Rick Plummer. Each performance will be dedicated to a local non-profit. Partnering with the RRCA for this year are Toys for Tots/Gifts for Teens, Homeward Bound, Love Inc and One Pantry. Audience members will be able to snap a photo with Santa when they donate goods to the featured nonprofit of the evening. The RRCA will also be donating 20% of the show profits to each nonprofit. Purchase your tickets at MyNorthTickets.com or by calling 1-800-836-0717.

“THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER”
7:30 p.m. | Manistee High School | 525 12th St.
A hilarious Christmas tale perfect for all ages! A couple struggling to put on a church Christmas pageant is faced with casting the Herdman kids—probably the most inventively awful kids in history. You won’t believe the mayhem, and the fun, when the Herdmans collide with the Christmas story head on! Visit manisteecivicplayers.org for ticket information. Ticket prices: $18–$20.

Sunday, December 3

CHRISTMAS AT THE LYMAN BUILDING
10 a.m.–3 p.m. | Manistee Co. Historical Museum | 425 River St.
Revel in the traditions of Manistee Christmas long ago with exhibits featuring antique decorations, lights and various holiday displays. Admission: Students $1, Adults $3, Families $8.

FESTIVAL OF TREES
11 a.m.–1 p.m. | Ramsdell Theatre Ballroom | 101 Maple St.
Read event description on Friday, December 1. Free admission.

SCANDINAVIAN CHRISTMAS
11 a.m.–2 p.m. | Danish Lutheran Church | 304 Walnut St.
Discover the history and beauty of the first Danish Lutheran Church in American and enjoy homemade Danish cookies and other treats.

TRADITIONAL SWEDISH BRUNCH & WORSHIP SERVICE
10 a.m. service, 11 a.m. brunch | Portage Lake Bible Camp | 4158 Camp Delight Rd.
Please RSVP to 231-889-5911. Brunch: $10 Adults, $5 ages 5 and over, free ages 4 and under.

TRADITIONAL VICTORIAN WORSHIP SERVICE
10 a.m. | First Congregational Church | 412 Fourth St.

TODD & BRAD REED
11 a.m.–2 p.m. | Ramsdell Theatre Hardy Hall | 101 Maple St.
Enjoy photography works from the iconic Northern Michigan father-son-team.

CHRISTMAS COOKIE & WINE PAIRING
Noon–6 p.m. | Douglas Valley, Downtown | 431 River St.
Milk and cookies are child’s play? How about pairing your favorite Christmas cookie with wine? Now that’s a treat even Santa would approve. $10 per person.

SANTA’S HEADQUARTERS
1–4 p.m. | Manistee Municipal Marina
Santa himself will be there for photo ops and to receive Christmas lists from all the good girls and boys.

TOUR OF THE JAMES DEMPSEY MANSION
1 p.m., 2 p.m. & 3 p.m. on the hour | 506 Maple St.
Call 616-802-4588. Admission $12 per person (cash only) For a preview, visit dempseymanorbandb.com.

“THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER”
2 p.m. | Manistee High School | 525 12th St.
A hilarious Christmas tale perfect for all ages! A couple struggling to put on a church Christmas pageant is faced with casting the Herdman kids—probably the most inventively awful kids in history. You won’t believe the mayhem, and the fun, when the Herdmans collide with the Christmas story head on! Visit manisteecivicplayers.org for ticket information. Ticket prices: $18–$20.

“A TUNEFUL CHRISTMAS CAROL”
2 p.m. | Ramsdell Theatre: 101 Maple St.
Read event description on November 30. Purchase your tickets at MyNorthTickets.com or by calling 1-800-836-0717.

LESSONS AND CAROLS
3 p.m. | Trinity Lutheran Church |420 Oak St.
Music, singing and bible readings. Free admission.


Read this interview from 2013 with Catherine Zaring, previous festival co-chair, if you need another reason to attend the festival.

Fresh off a move to Northern Michigan from Chicago, Catherine Zaring and her husband decided to check out their new town’s holiday winter attraction … and were blown away by what they saw at the Manistee Victorian Sleighbell Parade Old Christmas Weekend. “I’m standing there, watching the parade go by and all of these horses, and I looked at my husband and said, ‘Oh, my God, I don’t think they know how big this is.'”

Nine years later, Zaring became more than simply an awestruck spectator—she became co-chair with Rachel Brooks, current festival chair, of the event that draws upward of 10,000 people to the historical downtown each December. Started in 1998, the festival continues to deliver “the wonder of Christmas gone by.” Zaring, who is among many who dress in Victorian costume throughout the weekend, tells us more about this wintry tradition along the shores of Lake Michigan.

Why the Victorian theme for Manistee’s Victorian Sleighbell Parade Old Christmas Weekend?

Our downtown is so full of Victorian architecture. It’s good to preserve that history and to bring the Victorian era to life at least for a few days. Our downtown is just looking beautiful, and we’re pretty proud of that.

And so the festival really celebrates this pre-1901 time period …

Yes, we try to keep it within the Victorian era. It’s horse-drawn carriages and people in period costumes … I always say we’re kind of like Disneyland, the old Disneyland, on the Northern Michigan shores of Lake Michigan. In the daytime, you think, ‘Oh, this is cool.’ And then when evening comes, when you’re strolling downtown, you could be stepping back in time. If there’s a light snow falling, it’s just magical. We have people on Saturday all afternoon strolling around and dressed in period costume. I wear a bonnet and black cape I made. I have a basket with candy canes in it, and any kid who says Merry Christmas gets a candy cane.

What’s your highlight?

My favorite part of Manistee’s Victorian Sleighbell Parade Old Christmas Weekend is when the Christmas tree comes down the street, standing upright. It’s 25 feet tall, pulled by horses. We’ve had hemlock, blue spruce, white pine, short needle, long needle, and any kind of evergreen. They all have lights on them and go along the parade route to the marina. People follow along behind the tree and sing Christmas carols at the end of the route.

What else can we expect to experience at Manistee’s Victorian Sleighbell Parade Old Christmas Weekend?

We have carriage rides that the festival provides free. The merchants dress up, there’s a soup cook-off that’s been very popular. The Manistee Civic Players have a seasonal play. We have a Victorian dessert concert, a festival of trees that is absolutely gorgeous. There’s a huge craft show … It’s just a place out of time. I think that’s the best way to put it. Everybody loves Mackinac Island. For that weekend, I think we top Mackinac.


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