Silver Bells in the living room

Time-honored Lansing tradition scales back for COVID

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If it were any other year, Greater Lansing would be gearing up to gather by the tens of thousands in order to enjoy Silver Bells in the City. Instead of huddling together downtown to kickoff the holiday season, families that wish to celebrate the longstanding Lansing tradition will have to gather together in front of their televisions in order to watch a special Silver Bells spin-off broadcast aired by FOX 47.

“Silver Bells resonates throughout the region and means many different things to everybody. It’s super important, so doing nothing was not an option,” said Mindy Biladeau, interim vice president of sales and service with Lansing Entertainment & Public Facilities Authority. “We had to figure out what we could do to give people something positive and uplifting that they could enjoy at home.”

Those tuning in can expect a run-through of the usual Silver Bells fare emceed by “FOX 47 Morning Blend” hosts Deb Hart and Bob Hoffman and Silver Bells broadcast chairman Mark Buzzita. There will be a tribute to past Electric Light parades, an appearance from Santa Claus, who will read letters submitted by local children, music by Runaway June and the Lansing Symphony Orchestra and other special segments that will celebrate Kwanzaa and Chanukah. Viewers will also be treated to a holiday-themed cooking show and a number of shout-outs from celebrities throughout the program.

“Unfortunately, this year is a little bit different because of the pandemic. But I still had such a great time. I think our show celebrates all holidays and the fact that this is a time of coming together and being happy. It puts a little bit of magic back into the environment during a very challenging year,” Hoffman said.

In tune with the holiday spirit of coming together, the at-home Silver Bells special was a joint-effort pieced together with segments and clips recorded by different partners in several different locations. The musical act Runaway June filmed its segment in Nashville, Tennessee, and several backdrops, including the studios at FOX 47 and the Lansing Public Media Center, were utilized to produce the program’s many moving parts.

The broadcast received a lot of input from the community to make sure it still has that nostalgic, homey feeling that one expects from a holiday celebration. FOX 47 collected a cavalcade of submissions from people showing off ugly Christmas sweaters, matching holiday pajamas, holiday trees and menorahs and other unique ornaments and festive holiday décor. There was also a submission-based contest to see which group of family and friends could perform the best rendition of “Jingle Bells.”

Of course, the show must feature the lighting of the state Christmas tree. This year’s tree is a little special, considering that it was grown right here in Lansing. Typically, the state tree is harvested from the Upper Peninsula. But this tree comes from the property of Lansing citizens Larry and Annette Moshkosky. The tree was originally nominated for the special position 14 years ago but it was turned down, because it hadn’t yet grown to reach the sky-high height required for the state Christmas tree. The Moshkoskys patiently waited for more than a decade, and the tree eventually grew to a massive 58 feet. It’s second nomination proved successful, and now it will forever have a place in Michigan holiday lore, among 33 other pine giants that have graced the Capitol grounds.

“Silver Bells brings so many different people together and there is so much tension in the air right now that I think we need it — even if it’s just virtual,” Hoffman said.

Silver Bells in the City Broadcast

Watch on FOX 47

Friday, Nov. 20, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Order the 2020 Silver Bells Ornament at silverbellsinthecity.org

Register for the virtual Silver Bells 5K at runsignup.com/silverbells

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