Crowds of people, long lines of cars, and musicians and performers filled the streets around the campus and down Woodward Avenue on Dec. 3 for the 39th annual Noel Night.
During this time, Midtown was decorated in a festive manner; the streets were filled with festival goers, and the air was filled with the smell of cinnamon-roasted almonds and kettle corn. People from all over metro Detroit came out to get into the holiday spirit, and more than 60 venues participated.
All City Marching Band and fire poi performers from Detroit Fire Guild entertained onlookers on the streets, while the lights and music from different institutions invited them inside to visit.
The night brought music, shopping, art, craft workshops and kids’ activities, horse-drawn carriage rides, seven Santas and a free admission to many museums and other institutions. As a special treat, the Detroit Science Center, which closed this September, was open for the night.
Museums also participated in the event by staying open late and allowing free admission all night. The Detroit Public Library offered performances all around the venue. DJ Emmett was also on the second floor, which was his fourth appearance at Noel Night.
Children were able to have their faces painted by Kitty the Clown and enjoy a puppet show by Chris Clark in the south wing of the second floor. The play was entitled “Christmas Mouse.” The King High school dance team also performed.
Music lovers could choose between multiple shows. Melvin Davis & The United Sound played at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History, while other venues hosted performances such as Blind Boys of Alabama “Go Tell It On The Mountain” Christmas show and a Celtic troupe The Tartan Terrors.
Among those enjoying the dancing was Detroit resident Debi Crayton, who brought along her Girl Scout troupe to the festival.
“[I really like] being able to walk down the middle of Woodward and see all the people,” Crayton said when asked about her favorite part of Noel Night.
For food and refreshments, The Raw Café offered sampling of vegan items, Detroit Public Library had cider, and many venues had complimentary cookies and other snacks.
The Salvation Army passed out hot chocolate to warm the participants. Capt. Elmer Gamble said the organization prepared to pass out 5,000 cups but gave out much more. This was Gamble’s third Noel Night.
“I just love interacting with the crowd,” Gamble said.
World champion ice sculptor Tajana Raukar was featured at the Ice Scraper Challenge. Ice sculptures included a dove, a horse and many more.
The Detroit Institute of Arts had a Gingerbread Puppets decorating cookies workshop, while the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit had a series of workshop and children activities.
At the Detroit Historical Museum, the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church handbell choir returned to the festival. Inside the museum, even the “Streets of Detroit” exhibit was festively decorated. The exhibit depicts historical Detroit between the 1840s and 1900s. All-female group the Shoreline Chorus performed among the exhibit.
Wayne State University took part in the event as well. As a new addition to Noel Night, the WSU Faculty Art Exhibition had its closing reception. It featured artworks of different media by the art department faculty and their students.
The art included traditional paintings, abstracts and pottery and more unconventional ones, such as photographs of more than a dozen piercing clustered in one area on a body by Assistant Professor Lauren Kalman who explores beauty of body image, according to WSU College of Fine, Performing and Communion Arts webpage.
Another unique piece called “Thread Concentration Occurrence” was a digital imaging by Ryan Standfest, a Lecturer in the art department. It had to be viewed through a View Master Reel. His other work called “The Werkwelt Apparatus” (also incorporating a View Master) was a model construction of an abstract face with a speech bubble. One side of the bubble stated, “I see what I know,” the opposite side, “You see what I do not know.”
Some of the faculty and student artworks presented was for sale as a part of Winter Art Market. Few community organizations sold their artworks too, such as Lakeland Society of Artists, Arts & Scraps and Race for the Cure.
Other WSU building participating in Noel Night were the Old Main, Wayne State University Bookstore and Meyer & Anna Prentis Building (the “Fishbowl” lounge), according to the Noel Night schedule.
Old Main offered a Christmas tree sale, handmade gift shopping from Michigan artists, dance and jazz performances and an “On a Clear Winter’s Night” planetarium show.
The night capped off with a community sing-along. Led by the Salvation Army Band, everyone joined in to sing holiday classics. With song lists in hand, the crowd sang songs like “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” The sounds filled the air as everyone joined in unity to close out the night. Midtown came alive and showed everybody a great and festive time.