Jesus proved to be a pretty popular guy last night when what had to be approaching a record crowd of thousands poured into the streets of downtown St. Joseph for the 6th Annual Live Mannequins event following the spectacular launch of the holiday season with St. Joseph's Light Up the Bluff extravaganza.
Not only did the character of Jesus hold court on a highly authentic replication of The Last Supper inside the spacious front window of Jimmy John's Sandwich shop with his full complement of disciples, in the next block he held out a basket of bread and a lone fish at Bound for Freedom.
Both portrayals earned high honors, as Jimmy Johns became a repeat champion for Best of Show as the teamed with The Livery, Biggby Coffee and Zoup! for their presentation to thousands of awe-inspired fans, while Austin Bock, owner of Bound for Freedom copped the top honors for Male Model for his version of Jesus ready to feed the masses.
It would have taken a Herculean effort to feed the masses last night as relatively mild weather and temperatures in the mid to upper 30's at show time made for a considerably easier time than it years when the winds were howling down the pike.
There was a tie for the Best Storefront Display award between the Kilwin's Chocolate Fudge and Ice Cream tableaux showcasing a scene from the Wizard of Oz complete with Dorothy and the Scarecrow gathering up some apples before the Kilwin's team could cover them in delicious caramel, nuts and other toppings. That impressive window tied with the newcomer, Re-Imagine where several figures from Treasure Island discovered a world of re-claimed and re-purposed treasures of all sorts in another sophisticated display that pressed into action many of the items that one can discover and purchase from the store which opened last summer and will relocate soon to the space next door.
While Bound for Freedom's Bock was the top male model, the Best Female Model honors were granted by the judges to Sara Frazee in a scene from Sherlock Holmes at Perennial Accents. Her striking expressions and rock steady performance made her a unanimous choice for that win.
The Best Couple Award was shipped over to the crew at HarborTown Interiors where Mary Kay Hilton played the role of Mary Poppins while well known local musician Jimmy Fastiggi did the honors with a delightfully authentic Bert the chimney sweep.
The award for the Most Creative live mannequin window was well-earned by the colorful crew at State Street Stuff where characters from Alice in Wonderland populated both windows in the split entryway of the eclectic store, while many of the props and other hand-crafted display pieces came from products regularly sold inside that wacky emporium of fun.
The judges elected to add two additional Judge's Awards this year to show some love for a couple of truly outstanding windows including a group of youthful super heroes from Marvel Comics who pieced together a great action-packed window at PuzzleMental replete with bricks suspended in mid-air, flying trashcans, the appearance of a broken window and multiple super heroes from the comic archives of Marvel. That award was called the Stop Motion Animation Award.
The final Judge's Award was one for Best Ensemble Cast for a suspenseful window at Grins of St. Joseph where Cynthia Glass, Mary Glass, and Megan Probst played characters from the pages of the Nancy Drew mystery series. The incredible work the put into authenticity, props, and especially their ability to hold steady portrayals of shock, fear and terror for extended periods of time earned the respect of judges and spectators alike.
All in all there were 41 windows scattered throughout the entire central business district with thousands of eager fans racing from window to window jostling for the best vantage points, sometimes angling for the ability to catch the eye of a performer or crack them from their steady gaze.
Like most competitions in this amazing community along the shores of Lake Michigan, the scope and scale of the effort put into showcasing the very best tableaux at every stop made for a quality viewing experience.
Orchestrator and organizer Cynthia Hagedorn of Square Peg Productions in Grand Rapids was duly impressed with the manner in which St. Joseph merchants, sponsors at St. Joseph Today, and the volunteers who comprise the character-base of each and every window amp up their game year after year. As one of the judges for the competition this year, I can honestly tell you that this was an exceptionally strong cast from one end of town to the other and the costuming, set dressing, attention to detail and theme selection were an absolute joy to observe.
The theme of Literature had everything from Moby Dick to the Bible, from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas to Romeo & Juliet and everything in between. There are two major sad points -- one is that they are in place for such a short period of time, and two is that those who are actively in the windows miss out on the chance to see everyone else's act.