Parade Traditions Inspire Holiday Magic

Festive holiday events such as tree-lighting ceremonies and lively parades give us all a reason to come together and spread cheer in grand style. Across Chicago’s suburbs, you’ll find a plethora of heartwarming traditions.

Downtown Crystal Lake’s Festival of Lights parade, scheduled for Nov. 24, brings families together in a magical atmosphere.

The parade departs City Hall at 7 p.m., when 40 floats from community groups and businesses wind down Caroline Street, over to Grant Street and up Williams Street. The procession includes carolers, high school bands, and Boy and Girl Scouts before Santa makes his appearance.

Santa Claus makes his grand entrance at the Brink Street Market courtyard around 8 p.m. to sprinkle magic dust and light the community Christmas tree in the plaza. He then welcomes children and listens to their wishes at the nearby Santa House.

Besides the parade, Downtown Crystal Lake illuminates its streets with luminaria every Thursday evening from 5 to 8 p.m. in December, to add to the city’s inviting atmosphere.

“Our downtown events have become an annual family tradition for a lot of people,” says Lynn Reckamp, executive director for Downtown Crystal Lake, which organizes the event. “Everyone always asks how much they owe, and in this world of materialistic Christmas, it’s nice to have this amazing event as something we offer for free.”

Roughly 10 miles northwest of Crystal Lake, the Historic Woodstock Square has been a holiday epicenter for generations. The city’s annual parade and Lighting of the Square are full of magic.

The Woodstock Opera House Christmas Tree Walk and the Gingerbread House Walk kick off the weekend on Nov. 24 at 4 p.m. at the Old Courthouse Center. Santa and Mrs. Claus make their grand entrance at 5 p.m.

Then, the Square is closed off for the Lighting of the Square at 7 p.m. Here, tens of thousands of twinkling lights illuminate the Square’s park space, trees and Victorian-era buildings.

The following day, free carriage rides from 2 to 4:30 p.m. allow visitors to soak in the holiday spirit as they ride around the Square.

On Sunday, Nov. 26, the Christmas parade starts at Woodstock Water Works at 2 p.m. with as many as 50 floats heading east on Jackson Street. Cookies and Churros with Santa brings families together from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.

“Woodstock is a great place to live, work and visit, and I think the parade helps underscore the quality of life here,” says Brad Ball, president of the Woodstock Area Chamber of Commerce & Industry. “Community organizations are happy to show off who they are and what they do, and to just be part of the season.”

There was a time when Lake Zurich held a modest tree lighting ceremony. Now, their Miracle on Main Street event is a dazzling spectacle of twinkling lights and festive carols.

Scheduled for Dec. 2, from 3 to 6:30 p.m., the event starts with musical performances from Lake Zurich High School’s Bare Voices & Blue Notes Show Choir, Peace Lutheran Church Bell Choir, DJ Dave Chicago, Cricket Theatre, D95 Elementary Schools and the Academy of Performing Arts at the intersection of Old Rand Road and Main Street.

Before Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive on a fire engine, visitors can partake in sleigh rides, meet Santa’s reindeer, create crafts and watch a newly donated 20-foot tree at Rotary Park set aglow at 6 p.m.

At the Lion’s Den, 81 E. Main St., little ones enjoy visits with Santa, face painting and a Candy Cane hunt at 3 p.m., thanks to the Lake Zurich Lions Club.

Enjoy roasted chestnuts and popcorn, or else fill up on hot cocoa served by the Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce and hot cider courtesy of the Lions Club. Local artisans also offer holiday treasures.

“When I was a kid, I did different things with my family, the neighbors and the community, so creating memories for the youth in our community is so important,” says Bonnie Caputo, recreation director for the Village of Lake Zurich. “These events we do throughout the year are about connection, engagement and celebrating your community.”