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Hundreds keep traditions alive at Holiday in the Grove

Ethan Walter (left), 3, of Sugar Grove gets his picture taken Saturday as his brother Andrew, 6, peers out another opening during Holiday in the Grove at the Sugar Grove Community House.
Ethan Walter (left), 3, of Sugar Grove gets his picture taken Saturday as his brother Andrew, 6, peers out another opening during Holiday in the Grove at the Sugar Grove Community House.

SUGAR GROVE - Alyssa McCannon didn't save Christmas.

But thanks in part to her efforts, McCannon, a 15-year-old student at Kaneland High School, did manage to ensure that one of her favorite annual holiday traditions continued for another Christmas season.

Saturday, McCannon helped to organize Mrs. Santa's Sweet Shoppe, a booth offering cookies, candies and other sweet treats within the vendor area at Sugar Grove's annual Holiday in the Grove winter festival.

The booth, which is organized by members of the Sugar Grove United Methodist Church, has been a regular part of the festival for many years.

So when McCannon saw some weeks ago that no one from the church had yet volunteered to organize the Sweet Shoppe, she decided to take matters into her own hands, and took on the mantle of chairman for the endeavor.

"This was always one of my favorite things to do through my church," McCannon said. "So I asked my grandmother (Karen McCannon) if she would help with the logistics, if I volunteered.

"She said yes, and then we got to work."

Saturday, McCannon was among dozens of volunteers who turned out to produce the 2012 edition of Sugar Grove's Holiday in the Grove.

As in past years, the morning events, hosted in the Kaneland John Shields Elementary School and the Sugar Grove Community Building, featured an assortment of holiday favorites, including photos with Santa; Breakfast with Santa; an arts and crafts area for children; a cake walk; and a market for children to shop for inexpensive gifts for their parents and others.

An assortment of other holiday-themed events continued into the evening at the Sugar Grove Public Library, including performances by the Presbyterian Church Handbell Choir and the Kaneland Madrigals and free pizza and movies in the library's teen zone.

Marguerite Ledone, vice president of the Holiday in the Grove organizing committee, estimated hundreds of people attended the various events Saturday morning. She noted that about 200 children packed the Community Building's gymnasium for the children's activities and the cake walk.

And in the lower level of the Community Building, Julie Wilson, organizer of the Breakfast with Santa, said about 250 people came for the pancakes, sausages and chance to meet Saint Nick.

"We were packed all morning long," Ledone said.

Nick and Cathy Bianco, of Sugar Grove, and their children, Nina, 10, and Jake, 8, were among those who turned out Saturday.

The parents said Holiday in the Grove was an annual tradition for their family.

This year, they arrived toward the end of the morning festivities, and the children were able to squeeze in a photo with Santa just before he was whisked from the Community Building in a Sugar Grove Fire Department vehicle.

"I feel lucky," said Jake.

"But his mom feels like we were late," said his father, Nick, with a laugh.

Nina said the family was able to visit the kids holiday shopping area - "My favorite part," she said - and the children were able to purchase some gifts for their parents and for an aunt.

"We love coming here every year," Cathy said.

As for Santa's Sweet Shoppe, Alyssa McCannon said business was brisk all morning long, and she and other volunteers manning the booth were pleased with how this year's installment of the event had turned out.

"I didn't know what to expect when I signed up," Alyssa said. "But this has been so much fun, I may just do it again."

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