Holiday Lights winter festival 'magical' despite cold temps

The reindeer were unable to attend, and the temperatures were at least 15 degrees colder than during last year's event, nevertheless, Holiday Lights in Homewood on Friday night appeared to be a big success. 

Crowds lined the streets and filled the stores. Homewood Deputy Police Chief Rick Sewell estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 were there at the peak time, between 7 and 7:30 p.m. coincided with Santa's arrival at 7 p.m. for the lighting of the Christmas tree in Irwin Park. Attendees then headed to Martin Avenue for the holiday party. Total attendance might have been higher, he said.

As always, the tree-lighting was preceded by caroling around two bonfires. After Santa Claus arrived in a Homewood fire truck, escorted by a parade of decorated vintage cars, he hit the switch to light the tree and then settled into the gazebo to conduct brief consultations with local children about their hopes for Christmas.

The reindeer petting feature was replaced by an old-fashioned carousel set up in the intersection of Ridge Road and Martin Avenue. The new feature was intended to complement the village's year-long celebration of its 125th anniversary. Judging by the persistent lines of people waiting to ride, it was a popular feature. 

The free rides on the carousel were made possible by the sponsorship of several local businesses and organizations, including Aurelio’s Pizza, Lisa Grant Orthodontics, Grape and Grain, Homewood Baseball and Softball, Hoekstra Heating and Air Conditioning, St. Joseph's Athletic Association, TB Eggert Insurance and Travel Brokers. 

Events Manager Allisa Opyd said she was pleased with the event and the turnout.

"It was magical," she said. 

That was a sentiment echoed by Betsy Bayley VanEtten of Homewood, who said that among all the festivals Homewood provides, nothing beats Holiday Lights.

"Even in frigid temps, it is a magical night filled with friends, food, hot cocoa (and other grown-up toddies)... And a carousel that was simply perfection! So pretty, such an absolutely ideal centerpiece!" she posted to a local Facebook group. "It truly looked like something out of a Hallmark movie, and the kids loved it!"

The event also included traditional features, including holiday music performed by the Southwest Community Brass Ensemble whose members managed to play in gloves, and ice sculpting demonstrations by Nadeau’s Ice Sculptures.

The holiday film, "Home Alone," was shown at the Homewood Science Center, and ballet students thrilled passers by as they danced in the windows of the American Dance Center.

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