A parade of dogs and their owners all decked out in holiday attire, a visit by Santa Claus, ice skating, s'mores roasting, and the official lighting of the city's Christmas tree brought hundreds of people to downtown South Haven, Friday, Nov. 25 for the annual Holiday in the Park celebration.
Festivities kicked off at 4:30 p.m., with dozens of dog owners and their furry companions of all shapes and breeds marching up Phoenix Street toward Dyckman Park for the annual Santa Paws Parade.
Roxanne Leder, owner of Decadent Dogs boutique shop and one of the original organizers of the parade, got dressed up in an elf costume, brought one of her dogs and pushed her 14-month-old grandson Ignatious Gandhi-Leder in a stroller to take part in what has become a popular part of the holiday celebration.
"It's a great turnout," she said, regarding the growing number of pet owners and their dogs who take part in the parade each year.
Bringing up the rear of the parade was Santa and Mrs. Claus, riding in a boat towed by a trailer, to signal their arrival via Lake Michigan - according to hometown lore - to take part in South Haven's festivities.
After arriving at Dyckman Park, a long line of festival-goers waited to have photos of their children, parents and other families members taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus along with a group of elves. The photos were free of charge, courtesy of the South Haven/Van Buren County Convention and Visitors Bureau, which sponsored many of the Holiday in the Park festivities.
Those who didn't stand in line for a photo kept busy skating at the nearby downtown pavilion ice rink or stood around small fire pits to roast marshmallows to make S'mores in anticipation of the official lighting of the city's Christmas tree at 5:30 p.m.
The Holiday in the Park celebration also included the placement of honorary luminaries that lined the parade routes and Dyckman Park. The luminaries, which added a holiday glow downtown, were purchased as a fundraiser for Caring Circle Hospice. Nearly 1,000 people purchased a white bag stenciled with the name of a loved one who had died from a life-threatening illness or who is battling one. Each bag, weighted down with sand, contained an artificial candle to illuminate the bags during the evening. Some people even donated funds to have luminaries honor people of Ukraine who have died during the ongoing Russian invasion, which has been going on for the past year.