ST. CHARLES – Karena O’Rourke didn’t know what to expect Friday evening as she and her sons, 4-year-old Tyler and 6-year-old Mitch, waited for the Holiday Homecoming festivities to begin in downtown St. Charles.
The family moved here last year, she said, so they hadn’t yet experienced the traditional Friday-after-Thanksgiving celebration in St. Charles – the Lighting of the Lights ceremony in the First Street Plaza.
But, the former Californian said, they were willing to brave the cold for something new.
The O’Rourkes were among hundreds who bundled themselves against the chill to partake in the festivities.
Addressing the crowd, Mayor Ray Rogina said this weekend’s two major events – Friday’s Lighting of the Lights and today’s Electric Christmas Parade – show “no one does the holidays better than St. Charles.”
Friday’s celebration included traditional elements – St. Charles North and East students singing Christmas carols, the arrival of Santa Claus, and the group countdown to turning on the lights strung about the First Street Plaza and along Main Street – but it also featured a performance of the city’s newly minted official song, “In St. Charles.”
Former St. Charles resident Jim Masters wrote the ditty nearly 30 years ago. He attended the Lighting of the Lights to sing it with the crowd, who were given the lyrics to the chorus.
Masters said it was an honor and privilege to be at the event, calling it a dream come true.
“I hope this song speaks to your heart the way it came from mine,” he said.
His sister, Barbara Masters, accompanied him on the keyboard.
Free copies of the musical score for “In St. Charles” are available at various downtown locations, including the St. Charles Public Library, 1 S. Sixth Ave., and St. Charles Chamber of Commerce, 216 Riverside Ave.
Holiday Homecoming continues Saturday with activities throughout the day.
Cliff Blanck of St. Charles said he and his 5-year-old, Kayleigh, plan to see the free 10:30 a.m. screening of “The Polar Express” at the Arcada Theatre and watch the parade at night.
Lauren Licht, also of St. Charles, said attending the parade is no question for her family, which includes Jacob, 2 ∏, and Alexander, 1.
“He loves parades,” she said, gesturing toward Jacob, “so we have to.”
Holiday Homecoming is organized by the Downtown St. Charles Partnership.
Visit downtownstcharles.org for more information.