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Miller: Celebration of Lights steeped in tradition

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT
(Photo provided)
This year's Celebration of Lights festival will be from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Nov. 25 at the Batavia Riverwalk. Santa is scheduled to attend the event.

There’s something magical about the holidays. The twinkling lights, the falling snow and the sea of red and green have a way of bringing out the kid in me.

One of the things that makes this time of year extra special is tradition. Every family has certain holiday traditions it looks forward to every year.

For some Batavia families, one of those traditions is the Celebration of Lights festival.

The festival has been around for many years, but it became known as the Celebration of Lights in November 1992, which also is the first year it was held at the Riverwalk.

The mayor lit the community Christmas tree, and local organizations decorated trees in their own unique way.

Over the years, the festival has grown and changed. But today, it offers activities for all ages and is a special way to kick off the holiday season.

Families flock to the Riverwalk bundled up for the typical winter chill. They sing carols, sip hot cocoa, listen to holiday stories, take a tractor-pulled wagon ride and – most importantly – visit with Santa.

As the Batavia Park District photographer, I get the pleasure of capturing memories during the event.

There’s something very special about seeing children on stage with the master of ceremonies and local business owner Craig Foltos, singing along to “Here Comes Santa Claus” and watching their faces light up as Santa makes his appearance.

He steps off the trolley and makes his way through the crowd as children watch in amazement. Parents and children of all ages stand in line snacking on free roasted chestnuts as they wait to see Santa.

It’s heart-warming to watch the children light up as they walk in to the Peg Bond Center and see the jolly man sitting in his large, red chair next to the fireplace.

Some walk confidently to his side and hop on his lap, while others approach cautiously.

Every year, there are a select few who just aren’t ready to adorn Santa’s lap.

The Celebration of Lights festival is a true community event that captures the spirit of the holidays.

This year, it will be from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Nov. 25 at the Batavia Riverwalk. Families are invited to stop down to River Street and Wilson Street at 4 p.m. prior to the festival for a ribbon-cutting celebrating River Street. Dine downtown after the ceremony and then head to the Riverwalk.

For a complete schedule, call 630-879-5235 or visit

• Kari Miller is director of marketing and public relations for the Batavia Park District. Contact her at

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