Dreaming of a white Sterling Christmas

Annual event set for Dec. 1 at Dodge Park

By: Cortney Casey | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published November 16, 2012

 Mayor Richard Notte hands the key to the city to Santa Claus during the 2011 edition of Sterling Christmas. This year’s celebration is scheduled for Dec. 1 at Dodge Park.

Mayor Richard Notte hands the key to the city to Santa Claus during the 2011 edition of Sterling Christmas. This year’s celebration is scheduled for Dec. 1 at Dodge Park.

File photo by Andrew Potter

It seems that native Michiganders fall solidly into two camps: those who long for snow and those who lament it.   

There’s one day each year when Parks and Recreation Manager Kyle Langlois hopes for fluffy whiteness without fail: on the day of Sterling Christmas, the city’s signature holiday celebration in Dodge Park.

Last year, amid the unseasonably mild winter, “we had a huge turnout — which we expected for nice weather — but something about snow makes the event that much better,” he said. “It’s neat to be on a horse and wagon ride going through snow, and it just makes the park look great.”

So Langlois said the department’s staffers will be “crossing their fingers” for some ivory ambiance come Dec. 1, when the 2012 edition of Sterling Christmas comes around.

Community Relations Director Steve Guitar groaned, joking that he didn’t share Langlois’ wish for winter’s early onset.

“It’s fresher and crisper when we do get some snow on the ground,” he said grudgingly, “but not that I’m begging for it.”

Like many of Sterling Heights’ major recreational events, Sterling Christmas has been a staple of the city for decades — 36 years, to be exact — so the department has its annual execution down to a science.

“We believe we have a good thing going, so the event will run very similar to years past,” said Langlois.

That means festivities running from 5:45-8:30 p.m., including the horse and wagon rides, a carousel, pony rides, a petting farm, ice sculpture demonstrations, double campfires for staying warm, refreshments and more.

“I enjoy Sterling Christmas because it brings small-town charm to our rather large community,” said Guitar. “We celebrate the season with family and friends and doing the traditional things that sometimes get lost in the hustle and bustle of today’s society.”

Mayor Richard Notte and the city council will formally welcome Santa Claus to the city at the Dodge Park band shell, and members of the Sterling Civic Theatre will provide musical entertainment on the main stage and in the waiting area, as children queue up to confer with Santa one-on-one inside the Recreation Center.

Santa also will lead the crowd in counting down to the lighting of the city’s Christmas tree, acquired last year.

Across the street, as in the past, volunteers from the Sterling Heights Historical Commission will man the decoration-bedecked Upton House 6-8:30 p.m., offering visitors an opportunity to tour the interior.

They’ll also be showing off photos of the house and other landmarks in Sterling Heights in their early years, said Tammy Turgeon, the city’s community services director and a member of the commission.

The Victorian Italianate-style home was constructed in 1866-67, and the original owners, William and Sarah Aldrich Upton, lived in it until 1891.

“It’s one of the few surviving 19th-century homes in Sterling Heights,” said Turgeon, noting that the residence is now a Michigan Historical Landmark and listed on the U.S. Register of Historic Places.

In the Upton farm’s heyday, the 136-acre property encompassed the entire area, including where City Hall, 41-A District Court, the police station, the library and Dodge Park are now situated, she added. Their orchard covered the land now occupied by Dodge Park’s parking lot.

While admission to Sterling Christmas is free, attendees are encouraged to bring along donations of nonperishable food items. Great Clips also will match monetary contributions to the cause, added Langlois.

Langlois said the event would not be possible without the assistance of Great Clips and other sponsors, including Sterling Heights McDonald’s Restaurants, Christian Financial Credit Union, Sterling Van Dyke Credit Union and DentalWorks.

Dodge Park is located at the intersection of Dodge Park Road and Utica Road. For more information, call Parks and Rec at (586) 446-2700 or (586) 446-2692, or visit www.sterling-heights.net.