GENEVA – It didn’t quite feel like Christmas for the Lucas family until Friday when Santa Claus stopped in Geneva and lit the Great Tree on the Kane County Courthouse lawn.
The Lucases, who live in Geneva, were among thousands who crowded into Third Street to kick off the holiday season at the Christmas Walk. Laura and Cale Lucas held their daughters, Ella, 5, and Delilah, 3, on their shoulders as carolers sang in anticipation of Santa’s arrival.
“I was actually telling people at work today that it feels a lot like you’re standing in a Norman Rockwell painting,” Laura Lucas said.
She said the best part about the Christmas Walk is running into familiar faces, including the shop owners she knows.
“You just get that family feeling,” she said.
Store owners welcomed shoppers, and vendors roasted chestnuts over grills along Third and State streets. Live mannequins showed off clothing and toys in store windows while bell ringers for The Salvation Army thanked people for donations.
Members of the Candy Cane Parade trumpeted as Mayor Kevin Burns accepted the first candy cane made this year by Graham’s Chocolate, officially kicking off the walk at 6 p.m.
With a handmade candy cane tied to a pillow, Grayson Farrell, 12, of Batavia led three heralding trumpeters, the Geneva High School drum line, about 45 bell ringers and two giant toy soldier puppets down Third Street.
The crowd eagerly counted down from five as Santa Claus illuminated the towering Great Tree on the courthouse lawn.
Families lined up outside of Graham’s Chocolate to get one of the made-from-scratch candy canes before the festival started.
“They’re given to everyone who comes in for free as a thank you to the community,” said Beckie Untiedt, co-owner of Graham’s Chocolate, adding they’ve been in the community for 25 years.
The Daunheimer family waited near Graham’s for their fresh candy canes before the festivities started. Theresa Daunheimer said the Christmas Walk was her and her husband’s first date in 1994, and they haven’t missed it since.
She and her children, Drake, 10, and Dez, 4, enjoyed fresh doughnuts from Hahn’s Bakery while they waited for their candy canes.
“We love to watch Santa come in,” Daunheimer said.
Another favorite Christmas Walk pastime is the annual Unitarian Universalist Society of Geneva’s Cookie Walk.
Sherri Casterline of Campton Hills has volunteered for the cookie walk for 11 years. She said before the walk that she expected about 600 dozen cookies to be available Friday for the walk’s 30th anniversary. That’s about 7,200 cookies.
She said rum balls, gingerbread men and chocolate mice-shaped cookies are always the first to go.
“There’s such a variety. It’s amazing,” she said. “I’m just overwhelmed.”
Nina Samiles of Crystal Lake had never been to the festival before, but it didn’t stop her from dressing the part. She wore red and white striped tights, bows, bells and a Christmas-themed skirt. She sipped a cup of white hot chocolate as she waited for friends – dressed equally as festive – to join her.
“I’m kind of excited. There are so many people here,” she said. “I didn’t expect that.”