BATAVIA – A beloved holiday tradition will return with the Celebration of Lights Festival from 4 to 7 p.m. Nov. 26 at the Batavia Riverwalk.
Before the event, community voting will get underway mid-month to determine the People’s Choice winner among entries in Christmas Tree Lane along the Riverwalk, featuring 25 evergreens decorated by local organizations and businesses.
Celebration of Lights is the official kickoff to the holiday season, said Katie Drum, director of marketing for the Batavia Park District, a major organizer of the event.
“We get around a thousand people depending on the weather,” Drum said. “It’s definitely a tradition in Batavia. We get a lot of families … who stay in town for the Thanksgiving holiday or … come back to town for Thanksgiving.”
Mayor Jeff Schielke will introduce Santa Claus, who will arrive by trolley about 5:30 p.m. Following the ceremonial tree lighting, Santa will hear children’s wishes inside the Peg Bond Center from 5:45 to 7 p.m. that evening and will present a gift to each child.
Before Santa’s entrance, a community singalong will be led by Craig Foltos, owner of Foltos Tonsorial Parlor, accompanied by the Batavia Community Band at 5:15 p.m., Drum said.
Hot dogs and hot chocolate will be available for purchase, and people can savor complimentary chestnuts roasted on the Riverwalk. Drum said people also can warm up inside the Batavia Government Center, where the fire department will host a bake sale, and a Holiday Craft Market will offer items for sale.
Families can take a tractor-pulled hay ride around the Riverwalk to view all the lights; a $1 cash or food donation is requested for the Batavia Food Pantry.
Voting for People’s Choice in the Christmas Tree Lane project runs from noon Nov. 20 until noon Nov. 25. Photos of all the trees will be on the Batavia Park District’s Facebook page at facebook.com/BataviaParkDistrict.
To submit their vote, folks can “like” or “heart emoji” their favorite tree, Drum said. The winner will be announced online the evening of Nov. 26 and on stage during the 5:45 p.m. tree-lighting ceremony.
“The amount of engagement we get – thousands and thousands look through there,” she said. “It’s really fun to see the community get competitive in the fun way of supporting each other, and the local Girl Scouts or the local community organizations, like the Rotary or the Kiwanis or the Lions Club.”
Drum said Christmas Tree Lane transforms the Riverwalk between November and January.
“It’s really beautiful,” she said. “Regardless if you can’t make it out to the festival, enjoy going to the river and walking the grounds.”
Among Celebration of Lights festivities will be old-fashioned ornament making for all ages from 5 to 7 p.m. on the main level of the Depot Museum. And from 6:15 to 7 p.m., a story hour will be hosted by the Batavia Public Library on the lower level of the museum.
The festival is presented by the Batavia Park District in partnership with the Batavia Chamber of Commerce, Batavia MainStreet, the city of Batavia and the Batavia Police Department. The festival sponsor is Chiro One Wellness Centers.
For information, contact the Batavia Park District office at 630-879-5235 or view the schedule of events at bataviaparks.org.
Lending new sparkle
The Batavia Historical Society will add a shining new touch to the festival. The public can help make the Depot Museum a little brighter this holiday season by buying a bulb as part of the Light Up the Caboose fundraising campaign that benefits the museum expansion project.
Bulbs cost $10 each or three for $25. With each gift, a paper bulb with the donor’s name or name of one’s choice will be hung inside the museum between now and Nov. 26.
At 6 p.m. during the Celebration of Lights Festival, the depot’s historic Chicago, Burlington and Quincy caboose will be ceremonially lit by Polly Ernzen, daughter of Theodore “Ted” Schuster, who was an employee of the CB&Q railroad and instrumental in helping secure the caboose in 1975.
People interested in sponsoring a bulb can stop by the Depot Museum Gift Shop, 155 Houston St., or visit bataviahistoricalsociety.org. The shop is open from 2 to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.