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Historic Marshall Glows with the Christmas Spirit

Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer November 23, 2012

You only have to squint a little when standing along Michigan Avenue in downtown Marshall to imagine that you’ve been transported to the quintessential small town, Bedford Falls, in the classic movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The lights are twinkling, and the bells are ringing.

An artist’s rendition of the Honolulu House in winter.

Marshall — a town of some 7,000 people located at the intersection of I-69 and I-94 — is a living collection of about 850 historic homes and businesses, so unique that the National Park Service designated it as a National Historic Landmark District. First incorporated in 1830, the early settlers hoped it would become the state capital. Lawyers, ministers, business people and land speculators flocked to the city, building businesses and homes, including a Governor’s Mansion. Although no governor ever took residence in Marshall’s mansion, visitors may still tour the building, which is decorated for the season. Another historic building and museum, the Honolulu House, always dons holiday garlands for the season as well.

The Monday after Thanksgiving is the start to the holiday season. The Marshall Christmas Parade kicks off at 7 p.m. on Monday, with more than 100 floats, marching bands and parade entries. Every year, the children who line the streets anxiously await the appearance of Santa Claus, which signals the end of the parade.

Holiday cheer at the Honolulu House.

The schedule fills with events throughout the season. A few days after the parade, on Friday night, the entire downtown stays open from 6 to 9 p.m. for the Retail Open House, with carolers and musical groups providing entertainment along with free cider and cookies. It’s a great time for Christmas shopping at one of the town’s many specialty shops. The Mole Hole, a unique gift store, will be featuring organist Scott Smith on their amazing restored Barton Theatre Organ. The organ was originally installed in 1927 down the street at what was once the Garden Theatre and now houses Vincent’s Village Mercantile. A new store, the Mercantile is another must-stop with a wonderful selection of foods and specialty items, many of which are produced locally.

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