ANN ABOUT TOWN: Fire and Ice in Downtown East Lansing

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014, 8:33 am
Ann Nichols

Last Saturday, I realized that the more I am “about town” in East Lansing, the more I see that there is pretty much always something interesting to do. It’s tempting, when the winds are blowing and the sweaters are layered, to stay inside and hibernate but, if you do that, you miss stuff—in some cases, stuff that is both entertaining and free.

This realization came as we walked to downtown East Lansing to check out the City’s third annual Winter Glow event. It was cold by human standards (although warm by Michigan standards) but Ann Street Plaza was already crowded when we arrived. A fire burned in the outdoor fireplace, and the unmistakable smell of reindeer filled the air.

We stopped first at the Winter Market, where vendors familiar from the East Lansing Farmers market sold granola, honey, pickles, and other homemade products. Almost immediately, we ran into old friends; as we caught up with them I watched the growing crowd, noticing a mix of ages, and a uniformly high level of energy. A family passed with several small children holding steaming cups of hot chocolate, followed closely by an older couple walking a small dog in a Christmas sweater.

Next stop was the reindeer pen, where an incredibly excited little girl was inquiring about the age of the animal munching hay in front of her. “I’m seven, too!” she said, reaching through the bars to put a tentative mitten on the reindeer’s nose. Next stop was the ice carving, where a big guy with a chainsaw was making a different kind of reindeer from a huge block of ice. Just past that was a life-sized ice sled made by the same sculptors, where children were posing for pictures.

My companion (always willing to lend a hand in the name of journalism) offered to pose on the ice sled, but the idea was vaguely disturbing. Plus, I was already following the sound of fiddle music into a heated tent. Inside, we found Lansing’s own famous guitar guy Pat Zelenka playing Christmas music with a violinist in a top hat and suspenders. Next to us, a woman bounced a baby on her knee, and after the walking and the cold and the energy, it felt pretty great to sit for a bit and listen to the music.

Although Santa and Mrs. Claus were hanging out at The Marriott, and there were rumors of a marshmallow roast, we decided to head back home. It is possible that I slowed our progress by stopping in at several of the businesses along the way that offered special Winter Glow deals, but if I did, I was only doing my part to support the local economy.

Because sometimes, even after a long, hard day of petting reindeer, people-watching and listening to music, it’s necessary to make tough sacrifices.

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