Red Cedar Jubilee Celebrates 41 Years

And she’s up for the fight, having added more content to the Jubilee where she can, including bringing back the popular water ball fight which a number of fire departments put together.

Like most every outdoor festival or event, Williamston’s is totally dependent on the weather, Whelton explains. In 2009, “it rained constantly… every single day and we didn’t get any gates. And no gates means no money. I personally put in $4,000 to that year’s Jubilee just to keep it going.”

Anyone who doubts that the Jubilee is indeed her baby needs to reread that last sentence.

Of course, this being Michigan, festival-goers can depend on the weather forecast about as much as one can picking the winning lottery numbers. Whelton says that even in the “good” years “there’s always gotta be two days of storms and tornado warnings.” However, hope springs eternal; Whelton and her committee are confident that the 2012 Jubilee will be among the best yet.

The Jubilee has a different emphasis than other Williamston events such as Classic Car Night and Flamingo Fest because the majority of the activities take place away from downtown. “Jubilee doesn’t have to do with supplying [people for] downtown,” she says. “Jubilee’s purpose has always been to recognize the service organizations in Williamston—that’s how they make their money for the year.” That’s how Kiwanis, Sunrise Rotary and Lions make money, and the money that they make goes back into the city.

“The Lions Club has scholarships and Jubilee has scholarships, and the Rotary does things for different organizations. The money doesn’t go into anyone’s pocket. Everything we make goes back into the city of Williamston, and that’s what Jubilee does—that’s what it was created for.”

Whelton says that one misconception that people have of Jubilee is that it’s a chamber of commerce event. “But it’s absolutely not. Jubilee is a committee—the Red Cedar Jubilee is a separate committee in itself. During Jubilee, the Williamston Chamber of Commerce has an event under us,” as do the Lions’ Club and Rotary, but Jubilee is the umbrella organization. “They call me and say, ‘I wanna do this, this and this,’ and then I put them on the schedule. Jubilee runs that week.”

Barb Burke at the Williamston Chamber of Commerce says that, during Jubilee, “We hold the craft show and a home-based business showcase. It’s been great fun, and brings in more families and more shoppers. We have a good time. A lot of people call here and ask for information on Jubilee, and I always stay in close contact with Sandy. We help promote it—it’s a great week for Williamston.”

Representatives from several downtown concerns agree that the Jubilee is good for business.

“It’s a special time. It’s a lot of old faces and customers we haven’t seen for a while [come in],” says Karen Lawler with Barrett’s Menswear. “Just having the people in town is excellent. We love having that chance to have special promotions going on for our town.”

Tuesday Books’ Beth Phelps adds, “Generally, that week is our biggest week of the summer. It brings a lot of people downtown, and now with the Art Fest coming back, we’re excited because that brings a lot of people to the downtown area as well.”

Whelton concurs and adds that any festival or event that gives residents an excuse to get out and about to enjoy the city is a win-win. The chamber sponsors Dog Days during the first week of August, and Burke said that Cool Car Nights is another great event, along with the Winter Light Parade. And Thursday concerts in the band shell have been a been hit.

The Jubilee committee, which Whelton chairs, is comprised of 10 or 12 people that all put in a great deal of work in the weeks leading up to Jubilee. However, after it ends, there is no rest for the weary when her name is Sandy Whelton.

“Personally, I’m involved in about six other events,” she explains. “I’m on the city council. I’m on the Northeast Ingham Emergency Service Authority board; I’m on the Williamston Police and Kids Annual Golf Outing committee. I’m in charge of their golf program in August.” You get the picture. However, when it’s all said and done, “Jubilee’s been my life for 36 years. It’s like breathing to me.  I’ve met a lot of wonderful people and that’s why I do everything I do.”

Author: Jack Schaberg.
Photography: Terri Shaver.

Williamston Red Cedar Jubilee Committee

Sandy Whelton, President




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