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Posted on Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 11:24 a.m.

Ypsilanti kicks off holiday season with shopping, family fun events

By Katrease Stafford

The holiday season is in full gear in Ypsilanti, with many upcoming events planned around town.

The Depot Towns Merchants' Association is offering four holiday events throughout the end of November and December, beginning with a Christmas tree lighting ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24.

It’s the 12th year of the ceremony, which brings to life a 40-foot pine tree at the corner of E. Cross and N. River Streets, next to the signal tower. There were issues with getting the tree lit last year, and this year the Ypsilanti Visitors and Convention Bureau is paying for all the lights to make the event happen.

This year will include carols led by the Ypsilanti Community Choir, and they will be joined by Santa Claus and members of the Boychoir of Ann Arbor .

Sidetrack Bar and Grill owner Linda French said the boychoir is a new addition this year.

Sidetrack will provide free cookies and hot chocolate. Other Depot Town businesses will remain open, as well. Depending on weather, the event brings out up to 200 people.

"People who live here actually come to them (the events) and its tradition that they come to listen to the choir," French said. "We've had people come back as they grow up. It's a big deal. People like for the community to do festive things at the holiday time."

The day also features sales throughout Depot Town and the weekend holds the “National Buy Local Day.”

On Saturday, Dec. 8, area children are invited to have Breakfast With Santa at Sidetrack and the Enchanted Florist.

Sidetrack will prepare a full pancake and eggs breakfast, and Santa will walk through the restaurant and visit each table. Afterwards, Santa will head to the Enchanted Florist where kids can sit on his lap and tell him what they want for Christmas and receive a small present.

The fun begins at 9 a.m. and is by reservation only. The event is free, but participants are asked to bring a canned good to donate to S.O.S. Registration is at the Enchanted Florist.

All Depot Town businesses will stay open late on Dec. 15 and many will offer huge discounts during the “Midnight Madness” sale.

Among the shops that will remain open until 10 p.m. are Kim’s Resale Shop, Jim MacDonald Apple Annie's, One Love Culture Shop and the Mi General Store. Several shops will offer 20 percent discounts, and the regular night spots like Sidetrack and Aubree’s will remain open.

Holiday lights have already began to be put up throughout the downtown area, according to Downtown Development Authority Director Tim Colbeck. This year, the DDA along with the visitors bureau, plan to hang up winter banners throughout the DDA districts.

"We want to do it to give a little pop to the downtown districts," Colbeck said. "The visitors bureau has really stepped up and taken on a lot of the heavy lifting."

The Downtown Association of Ypsilanti will be hosting its own treelighting ceremony, the Starlight Spree and Tree Lighting at 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 30 at the plaza right next to the downtown library at 229 W. Michigan Ave.

Similar to the event held by the Depot Town Merchants, Santa will be on hand and the Ypsilanti Community Choir will sing carols as well.

"There's so much going on down here," said Dave Heikkinen, Heikk's Decorated Apparel owner and DAY president. "We're all just gearing up for the holiday season. There's a nice sense of community here and it makes for a very festive time."

Click below to see a video of last year's Starlight Spree and Tree Lighting ceremony:

Freelance reporter Tom Perkins contributed to this story.

Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for AnnArbor.com.Reach her at katreasestafford@annarbor.com or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.