Downtown St. Charles is dressed up for the holidays as Mayor Donald DeWitte, accompanied by his great niece, flipped the switch to illuminate 1st Street Plaza beneath hundreds of twinkling lights adorning the trees. Santa arrived with Mrs. Claus moments later.
“Good evening St. Charles, and let me be the first to with you all a Merry Christmas!” DeWitte trumpeted to the crowd, which responded with cheers and applause. “I’m so happy to be here for this outstanding St. Charles tradition. The city is filled with people with such great community spirit, which is why I can’t think of a better place to celebrate the start of the holiday season than right here in St. Charles.”
DeWitte applauded the members of the chorales from St. Charles North and St. Charles East high schools, who sang several Christmas carols over the course of the ceremony, as well as the Downtown St. Charles Partnership and Executive Director Lynne Schwartz, who organized the evening’s festivities.
Schwartz, just minutes before DeWitte stepped to the microphone, had welcomed those who turned out for the “Lighting of the Lights” and thanked the volunteers who worked for months planning and preparing the Holiday Homecoming events, and the event sponsors.
The “Lighting of the Lights” ceremony is the opening of the Holiday Homecoming, which continues Saturday, Small Business Saturday, and culminates with the Electric Christmas Parade down Main Street. The parade steps off at 5:30 p.m.
Friday evening’s mood was festive and cordial, with people milling about in groups on 1st Street and in the plaza, where the lights had been turned off in advance of the lighting ceremony.
“I’m here to tell you there’s only two areas in our city budget that I refuse to cut — one is the Fourth of July, and the other one is Christmas,” the mayor continued. “It’s great to see so many people down here tonight and we hope you come back tomorrow ... as we continue the Holiday Homecoming celebration.”
He noted that The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign is under way in St. Charles and urged residents to give generously to an agency that assists the poor.
The evening likely was a bit bittersweet for DeWitte, who is approaching the end of his second term as mayor, preceded by three terms as alderman. He announced earlier this year he would not seek re-election.
“Since this looks as if it is going to be my last Christmas-tree lighting ceremony, I’ve taken the liberty of inviting my great niece Elise to help me flip the switch tonight,” he said. A countdown from 10 ended with a in cheers as the lights sparked into life in 1st Street Plaza, as the high school chorale groups sang Oh Christmas Tree.
Holiday Homecoming Continues Today
The Holiday Homecoming continues with more activities on Saturday, which is Small Business Saturday nationally, a day when people are encouraged, at the start of the holiday season, to shop at a local small business.
The day will include a free showing of The Polar Express at 10:30 a.m. Saturday on the Arcada Theatre’s big screen.
Also planned are horse-drawn sleigh rides from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday beginning at the 1st Street Plaza; and visits with Santa from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 23 in the First Street Plaza Santa House.
All Holiday Homecoming events and activities are free of charge.
The Electric Christmas Parade steps off at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, and Downtown St. Charles Partnership founders Jack Wagner, Jim Martin, Sharon Oie, and Dave Lencioni will serve as grand marshals for the event, part of the Downtown St. Charles Partnership’s 20th anniversary year.
The Electric Christmas Parade also will feature Miss Illinois, as well as lighted entries by many local organizations including the Boy Scouts, the Filling Station and the St. Charles Breakfast Rotary.
For more information on Holiday Homecoming events, sponsorship, parade entry and more visit www.DowntownStCharles.org/Holidays.
- Nov. 23, 2012: Holiday Homecoming Is Today and Saturday
- Nov. 23, 2012: Small Business Saturday and Beyond: Finding the Hottest Toys in St. Charles
- Nov. 22, 2012: St. Charles Patch Holiday Guide 2012
- Nov. 22, 2012:
- Nov. 21, 2012: Contest: Enter the Great Patch Christmas Cookie Bake-off