GENEVA – Even with temperatures at a breezy 13 degrees, nothing could stop the crowds filling Third Street in Geneva on Friday night for the annual Christmas Walk celebration.
Santa arrived and a group of singers led the crowd to join in “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Then led by Mayor Kevin Burns, the crowd did a countdown of five for the lighting of the Great Tree – a very tall fir tree – on the lawn of the old courthouse.
As it went from darkness to thousands of lights, the crowd whooped and hollered its approval.
The kickoff of the annual two-day celebration drew many who make it their personal holiday tradition, such as Nancy Regole of Campton Hills, who hasn’t missed a Christmas Walk in 27 years.
“I like this event because I’m Swedish and Norwegian,” Regole said. “My whole life, we celebrated Christmas like this in Minnesota. And so when I moved here, my husband took me out this way so I could continue to have my Christmas. I wouldn’t miss it for anything.”
Erin Kohlhagen of St. Charles cuddled her 2-month-old daughter, Grace, inside her coat while her husband, Steve, held 18-month-old Kylie.
“We love coming here every year,” Kohlhagen said. “We’re not going to let the weather hold us back.”
The brisk weather drew many inside the downtown stores to warm up, get a drink of hot cider and nosh on a candy cane.
Nat Constanzo of Simply Baby stood at the door of the Shoppes at 127, handing out candy canes as people filled the store.
He said he wanted those taking a cane to sing a Christmas song first.
“I just had somebody sing a Swedish Christmas carol to me,” Constanzo said.
Karen Reed of Matteson offered a heartfelt solo of “Silent Night” and the crowd cheered and clapped for her impromptu performance.
Reed said she drove 90 minutes for the Christmas Walk and was enthralled with the beauty of downtown Geneva and the friendliness of the people.
Also catching a bit of warmth was Bob Reichardt, a police sergeant in Campton Hills. Reichardt said he has been coming for several years to enjoy the festivities.
Charlotte and Jocelyn Miller of Hanover Park said they had been coming for years, as Charlotte does business with the Coffee Drop Shop, whose owners urged to come.
“We love it,” Jocelyn Miller said.
Among the stores hosting free hot chocolate was a new confectionery, Kilwin’s, 407 S. Third St., but it is not scheduled to open until March 1.
“I’ve wanted to own a store on Third Street since the 1970s,” franchisee Tom Castronovo of Geneva said. “It’s going to be a chocolate cafe with indoor seating.”
The Christmas Walk continues today with store specials, visits with Santa, horse-drawn carriage rides, the used book sale from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Geneva Library, 127 James St.; and the Geneva House Tour from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tickets for the self-guided tour of five decorated homes are $30 and are available at various stores and at the Geneva Chamber of Commerce. More information is available at www.genevachamber.com.
Also, chef Alain Roby of The All Chocolate Kitchen, 33 S. Third St., will mark a one-year anniversary of when he made the world’s longest candy cane at 6 p.m. today.
Roby will present a 10-foot replica of his Guinness World Record-breaking 51-foot candy cane, which will be broken apart and shared with guests along with hot apple cider.