The lights dim. The choir builds to a crescendo. The unmistakable smells of the season fill the air, from Christmas firs to hot cocoa and roasted almonds.
A scene from Norman Rockwell or “It’s a Wonderful Life”? Not quite.
Every year, the close-knit independent college in southern Michigan gathers for the free event. Every year, it gets a little bigger. But it still maintains that small-town feel that’s made it so beloved.
“It’s been incredibly successful and I’m always shocked in a wonderful way in how many people come out from the community,” Sarah Crane, special events coordinator for the president’s office of Spring Arbor, told MLive.
“It’s a huge sign of success when people are posting it on their calendars and are looking forward to it.”
This year’s event begins Friday at 7 p.m. with a Christmas concert, performed by university students, at Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church.
Afterward, University President Dr. Brent Ellis will lead a candle-lighting ceremony, Christmas carol sing-along and fireworks sponsored by American 1 Credit Union.
The event includes an 8:30 p.m. reception at the Student Life Center that includes cookie decorating, cocoa, balloon animals and a visit from Santa Claus. The night also includes horse-drawn Christmas wagon rides through campus and a biannual exhibit of the best student artwork this semester at the Ganton Art Gallery.
Bonus: It’s free.
Because you can’t put a price on community and togetherness, especially during the holidays. That’s especially true at Spring Arbor and Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities.
National leaders in education, the schools recognize that college is about experience. All emphasize community over crowds and a spirit of togetherness and cohesion that just doesn’t exist at big state schools.
With low class sizes and award-winning faculty, the schools are proud that students forge lifelong bonds with professors.
Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates for a truly unique and affordable experience.
Be bold. Be different. Go independent.