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Major Muskrat expected for Christmas in Ida fest

Events start Friday; Parade of Lights is Saturday


Bill Saul secures chicken wire that will brace artificial snow on the River Raisin National Battlefield Park’s float for the festival. It has a new trailer, donated by American Manufacturing Operations of Toledo.

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IDA, Mich. — The crew building a float for the River Raisin National Battlefield was busy this past weekend, making sure Major Muskrat will be well-represented at the Parade of Lights during this year’s Christmas in Ida Festival.

Recent cold weather has been a hindrance, said Bill Saul, a volunteer at the national battlefield park in Monroe who coordinates the float-building crew, but the show will go on. “Major Muskrat will be back this year, and there will be plenty of re-enactors with him in period clothing,” said Mr. Saul, who lives in LaSalle Township.

The 31st Christmas in Ida Festival starts Friday and runs through Sunday. Events begin at 7 p.m. Friday in St. Joseph Catholic Church with a concert featuring the Saline Fiddlers, and conclude at 2 p.m. Sunday with a performance by the Ida High School bands.

The Parade of Lights through downtown Ida will start at 7 p.m. Saturday. It is a popular 2.5-hour procession with more than 120 floats and other entries. It attracted 48,000 spectators last year, according to Dale Zorn, a co-founder of the festival, which is organized by the Ida Civic Club. The entire weekend drew 52,000. “We’re drawing people from the Midwest mostly, but they come from all over the country, including California,” said Mr. Zorn, a Republican state representative.

Mr. Zorn is the sole surviving co-founder of the festival, which had its modest beginnings — with a fire truck and high school band — as a way to showcase small-town America. It has grown to include what the organizers believe is Monroe County’s largest crafts show, which has expanded so much that it overflows into three venues: Ida schools, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church Hall, and heated tents downtown.

All entertainment is free. This year’s festival features three concerts. The headliner is Billboard country music artist Keith Anderson, who will perform “Pickin’ Wildflowers,” “Sunday Morning in America,” and “I Still Miss You.” He wrote the Grammy-nominated “Beer Run,” recorded as a duet by Garth Brooks and George Jones. He takes to the stage at 5:15 p.m. Saturday.

Opening for him, at 4 p.m., will be pop singer Taylor Taylor, a Michigan native who is an up-and-coming star. Only 16 and from Lansing, she sings a mixture of jazz and pop combined with classical guitar. The free outdoor concerts are in the Ida Township parking lot.

The Saline Fiddlers, the festival’s first concert performers, play traditional bluegrass, Western swing, Celtic, and Christmas music. A public reception will follow the performance in the Catholic church.

The Holiday Hounds on Parade will be downtown at 2:15 p.m. Saturday, and include almost 100 canine participants, large and small, in their own parade on Lewis Avenue. A highlight is the Great Dane Meet Up of Ohio and Michigan, which will feature more than 80 Great Danes and their owners.

Holiday Hounds Royalty will be crowned in the afternoon and ride on their own float that evening in the Parade of Lights.

Mr. Saul said the national battlefield park float will have a new custom-made trailer for parades, donated by American Manufacturing Operations of Toledo. The tires are recessed 20 inches so they cannot pose a hazard to parade watchers’ feet.

Contact Carl Ryan at: carlryan@theblade.com or 419-724-6095.

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