FROM THE ARCHIVES: Greenville greets spring

From the Archives | Sandy Main

The coming of spring prompted a special event in Greenville in 1926.

“CITY GREETS SPRING’S ADVENT” blared a banner headline in the Independent Daily News early in April of that year. “Coming of new season to be ushered in by second annual Spring Window Night festival,” the secondary headline read.

“Forty-five local business establishments unite in exposition of the newest and best in the season’s styles and fashions. Lafayette Street will flash forth in brilliance at 7:30 o’clock when special displays are unveiled,” the newspaper went on to explain.

“This is to be the big event of events for the spring months when this city plays host to the throngs from near and far gathered here for the spring festival. Great numbers swarmed to Greenville for the spring and fall Window Nights last year and they found them most interesting. The success of these two carnivals last season caused a keen demand for a repetition this spring.

“Greenville folks have been busy for days planning novel displays and ‘stunts’. The most gorgeous of the spring merchandise of all kinds will be arrayed in the show windows of the stores. Gowns of the resplendent hues of the springtime, the new spring coats whose style will be so late that they will make Paris jealous, the latest in men’s wear and a myriad of interesting things from farm machinery to jewelry will be displayed to advantage. Some novel notion displays will cause merriment and special interest.”

The festival was scheduled for April 14. The plan was to have all display windows in the business section of town covered by 6 p.m. At 7:15 all store and street lights would be turned off, then at 7:30 windows would be unveiled and all lights flashed on simultaneously.

An adjustment to that timetable was announced a few days later when the Independent Daily News announced, “The flash of window and street lights for Greenville’s big Window Night exposition Wednesday evening will be at 8 o’clock instead of 7:30 as previously announced. The daylight saving schedule leaves it too light at 7:30 o’clock for an effective flash.”

Traffic was to be halted downtown for the event. “The two main business blocks will be roped off from automobile traffic so that the crowds will have full sway.”

A band was engaged to provide music during the event. “The combined Greenville Junior band of 50 instruments under the leadership of Director Emulous Smith will stage a parade through the business section and will give fragmentary concerts at various points throughout the evening. Greenville boasts one of the most remarkable junior bands in the state. The youths produce excellent band music.”

The downtown stores would not be open for business during the festival, however. “This will not be a trading event as all stores will be closed. The evening will be devoted entirely to the review of the displays and to merry making in the streets.”

No prizes were offered for window displays, a change from the first festival. “There will be no drawing of numbers for prizes in the windows as last year. Although the plan caused much interest, it was deemed by those in charge this year that this feature did not add greatly to the event.

“This year the Chamber of Commerce is offering prizes for the best reviews of the Window Night displays written by young folks not over 18 years of age. These Window Night reviews are not to be over 800 words in length.” The reviews were to be delivered to the Daily News office and it was planned that the winning reviews would be published in the  newspaper.

“A jolly evening” was predicted by the Daily News: “As proven on previous occasions here and elsewhere, Window Night provides a jolly evening for the crowds who throng the streets. If the weather man is kind, a record breaking crowd from all parts of Montcalm county and from neighboring counties is expected for the evening.”

That was not to be the case, however. As the Independent Daily News reported the next day: “The weather bureau failed to work in harmony with Greenville business men on the occasion of the Spring Window Night last evening, the bitter cold keeping indoors many that have formerly thronged the streets for these festivals.”

Those who did attend, however, were treated to a fine show.

“The crowd of spectators, though smaller than last season, eagerly took in the exhibits at the various business establishments and pronounced them most excellent though the cold caused them to hasten around.

“Greenville business people had put forth commendable effort in preparing excellent window displays and there was no disappointment on the part of those who waited for the window covers to be removed revealing the displays at the given time.

“Beautiful artificial flowers typical of springtime were the predominant decoration in most of the windows giving an atmosphere of spring that was most appealing. A number of displays were pronounced equal to those arranged by professionals in the city department stores.

“The exhibits included some most artistic arrangement of groceries, ladies’ and gentlemen’s apparel, jewelry, home furnishings, electrical appliances, hardware, drug store merchandise, implements, etc. that would do credit to a state fair. Several motion window exhibits attracted special attention.”

An exhibit receiving a lot of attention didn’t feature merchandise, however. It was the “collection of athletic trophies and pictures in the window of the State bank. The pictures of the earliest teams that represented Greenville high school and the later groups, with many members now prominent men in Greenville, were particularly of interest.”

Of special interest were pictures of the “First Foot Ball Team 1896 — Greene, Crane, Hutchinson, L. Rarden, Osborne, Cooper, Bracey, Barlow, W. Walker, Jenison” and “First Basket Ball Team 1908-1909 — Fowler, Shephard, Hansen, Hendry, Leonard, Christensen, Leonard.”

The winners of the Window Night review contest were announced in the Independent Daily News a couple weeks after the event. Winners and their prizes were Marion Stockford, first, $5; Ethelyn Livingstone, second, $3; and Ruth Losey, third, $2.

Newspapers readers did not get to read their write-ups, however. As the paper explained, “It was intended to publish the Window Night reviews written by the young folks. It has been determined that in the interest of good feeling on the part of all that these should not be published.”

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