From now until December 31, downtown Kalamazoo turns into a Christmas wonderland. A light show that is the creme de la creme lights up Bronson Park each year after Thanksgiving. If it is not just too downright cold, you can walk right through the park, along the diagonal that is surrounded by relics from the Civil War, as well as tributes to Abraham Lincoln, who, by the way, spoke there in 1856–and as far as you can see, neon lights, all of varying colors are flashing right in your face. My favorite is the series of blue neon lights that make me feel as if I am headed uptown to the movie theater, arm and arm with my lovely wife, on a Saturday night.
In addition to the excitement of the light show, along the diagonal is a line of candy cane-style arches that lead to a manger, a replica of the place where Jesus, my Lord and Saviour, was born in Bethlehem some 2,007 years ago. In the humble looking manger are figures of the Holy Family, as well as the Wise Men. The floor of this humble manger is made with straw, yes, real hay. For viewing at night, the manger is even lit. If you were to ask me, the manger should be the centerpiece of the entire Christmas display, since Jesus’s birth is the central event of the Christmas season, and not the shopping or the viewing of the lights. (Sidebar: I am glad some offended party has not complained, and had the display permanently removed, although it has been vandalized in previous years.
Another one of the perks to living in this college town is the Holly Jolly Trolley. Catch it every half hour at the Radisson Hotel, which, by the way, has a larger-than life Santa there to greet you, the Jolly Old Elf all decked out in his famous red suit. You get a free ride around the downtown area, and get to listen to the classic Christmas tunes that we have come to know and love throughout the years. Mrs. Koolbreeze and I did this back in ’05, and we look forward to doing it again this year.
Our first trolley ride came New Year’s Eve night, 2005. I remember the day so well. A cold rain fell that evening as we stood in front of the upscale Radisson Hotel, waiting for our trolley to come and pick us up. Within minutes it was there, the red and green bus, which looks more like a 1930’s era streetcar. Once on the trolley, we sat amongst the other passengers, people from all walks of life. Some had small children, some did not. Besides the ringing bells, I can still hear the music produced by the sound system on the trolley, as classics such as “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” emanated from it. The music most certainly added a new touch to it.
And as if the trolley and the light display aren’t enough–at the newly built Kalamazoo Transportation Center is a Christmas display, which includes several structures made to look like Christmas trees emitting blue light, but are not. Actually they are tree-shaped structures made of steel wire. And believing as they do that Christmas just isn’t Christmas without the music–there is music to be enjoyed, piped from a sound system at the center. Passengers can enjoy music that will put them into the Christmas spirit while waiting for the buses to take them to their several destinations.
If you are in or around Kalamazoo, Michigan between now and December 31, you really should come and check our city out! Around Christmas time, the city really lights up at night.