Genesee Twp. — The streets are almost empty on Sunday until the train arrives at 6:45 p.m., spilling hundreds of visitors back into the nostalgic holiday din of Crossroads Village, north of Flint.
This Genesee County Park is seasonal, and is in full swing for the holidays. Crossroads’ recreation of 19th century Midwestern life includes artisan craft work, costumes and lighting. There are still two weekends left at Crossroads Village — Dec. 18-22, and 26-29. Hours are 4:30 to 9 p.m.
Lights are the first sign you’re somewhere special — they surround and envelop your vehicle as you enter the park, and once the sun goes down, surround you as you tour the richly atmospheric grounds. Manager Gary Pringle said there are millions of light bulbs around the village, but because the displays change each year, he can’t give an exact number.
More than 2,800 guests regularly visit on Saturdays, the peak day, Pringle said. Around 1,500 visit on Sunday.
Aside from the lights, Huckleberry Railroad is also a huge draw, and acts as the centerpiece to the experience for many.
Before the 5 p.m. ride, visitors line the boardwalk just outside the village as the train waits. Don Gray, 85, of Burton is a volunteer conductor, and is dressed as such. He punches tickets, and is a veteran of the real rail system himself.
“I like kids and people,” he said. All volunteers, performers and even a few visitors are dressed for the time period.
The 40-minute winding ride carries 410 people past Mott Lake, the historic Pere Marquette roadbed and back to the village. On the ride, dozens of lighted decorations can be seen. It travels at 20 mph or less to take everything in.
Tickets for Huckleberry Railroad can be bought at the park, but it is suggested that purchases be made ahead of time online. Adults 13 to 59 are $10, seniors over 60 are $9, children 2 to 12 are $8, and under 2 are free.
The prices are the same to enter the park, and for $3 more, visitors can also get the train ride experience.
At the old stage coach stop, a line goes out the door to meet, and take cell phone pictures with Santa Claus. Next door, in the building where the first automobile was built, families can meet a real-life reindeer.
Mike and Sarah Summitt of Grand Blanc brought daughter Sadie, 4, and son Jackson, 2, to meet Santa, after waiting in the crowded line in the warmly lit room. Mike said he hopes the kids remember the bright lights, and meeting Santa Claus.
Back in the “downtown” section of the village at the Colwell Opera House, visitors catch a free performance of The Gift of the Magi, and warm up during the 20-minute performance.
Available for purchase are wares from a blacksmith and a toymaker, kettle corn, roasted nuts, and gifts at three different stores in the village.
A highlight of the trip is the Tree of Light, which itself has hundreds of thousands of yellow lights, and brings families up for photos, marriage proposals and just amazement. Pringle won’t divulge the exact number of lights, because there is a nightly contest on how many there are.
He said many families come here to build new traditions and start off the holiday season. “It’s a tradition,” he said. “It’s just a family-friendly event.”
Crossroads Village information
Crossroads Village has 25 walkable acres. It’s lit by hundreds of decorations in the trees and historic buildings. It is located at 6140 Bray Road, in Genesee Township, Flint mailing address. Go to geneseecountyparks.org and search “crossroads” for more information. It is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. with four train rides or every 50 minutes. Prices are $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, and $8 for children to enter the village. A train ride is an additional $3.