WRITER | LISA BECKER CAMPBELL
As if imitating a snow-covered scene from Currier and Ives, Southwest Michigan sparkles in the winter season. Events indoors or out invite revelers to celebrate holiday traditions and to create new memories.
The city of Saint Joseph is transformed into a magical winter wonderland each year with the Community Tree Lighting ceremony that takes place on the first Friday of December and dazzles through February. Over one million lights twinkle along Lake Bluff Park. The St. Joseph High School Choir kicks off the unveiling with holiday music at 6:30 p.m. The city of “St. Joe” continues with many community events, including seasonal celebrations, festivals, and musical performances.
Join in the jovial silliness of the annual Reindog Holiday Parade. Parades in years past have included dogs, their kids, and their owners in costumes from “Santa Bernards” to “Reindeer Rottweilers.” Santa joins the celebration for “wish list” conversations and photos.
On January 26, St. Joe presents its Sixth Annual Chili Tour, a chance to sample, savor, and vote for favorite “Chili Stops” from among those who have submitted their best recipes.
St. Joseph will also celebrate the craft beer industry with the St. Joe Winter Beer Fest on January 27 from 12–4 p.m. Craft beer enthusiasts will enjoy sampling from Michigan breweries at the 3rd Annual outdoor event.
The community will also host its 14th annual magical Ice Fest from February 2–4. The merriment includes ice competitions, a Fire and Ice Tower Display, a Fire and Ice Party, Ice Wars, a SnowBiz Scavenger Hunt, a Frozen Fish Toss, a Magical Ice Throne, and more.
On December 9, Benton Harbor welcomes the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra, with guest conductor Caleb Harris and the Citadel Symphony Chorus to happily ring in the holiday season with a variety of seasonal favorites and musical surprises.
The Mendel Center at Lake Michigan College is another musical gem for heralding the holiday! Past performances by Bryan Lubeck hosting Rejoice! live holiday concerts have brought listeners to their feet. This year builds on that momentum with fresh arrangements of holiday treasures to make the season sparkle.
On January 1, the Mendel Center presents Winter Delights – A Festival of Wine, Food, and Music. According to its website, the event promises to “warm up a Michigan winter with an evening of wine tasting, delicious food, and great music.” The evening includes wines from as many as 20 regional vineyards for sampling, culinary delights from a select group of local restaurants, and live musical entertainment.
Seasonal adventures await for outdoor enthusiasts as well. Enjoy hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing along the picturesque Lake Michigan shoreline. Take a comfortable hike along the Lions Park Beach’s John and Dede Howard Family Recreational Trail in St. Joseph, a paved trail that is plowed and cleared during the winter months. If you haven’t seen the shoreline in winter, this is the way to do it! A favorite trek for cross country skiers who enjoy ungroomed trails is at Riverview Park in St. Joseph.
Freestyle cross country skiing is also spectacular at Grand Mere State Park in Stevensville, where the trails glisten with sun and snow along the shores of North, Middle, and South Lakes. Make the trek to Warren Dunes State Park in Sawyer or to the Madeline Bertrand Cross-Country Skiing and Hiking Trail in Niles, which has color-coded trails for all levels, from short to most challenging.
Make spirits bright this winter with a visit to the coast of Southwest Michigan.