Flossmoor has a new events manager and a new approach to its holiday celebration this year, along with a renewed commitment to inclusion.
Stephanie Wright, on the job for a couple of months, has taken all the charming aspects of Winterfest, the village's annual early-December holiday festival and sprinkled them across a four-week period to create a season of celebration.
The fun will start on Nov. 27, which is also Small Business Saturday, an annual nationwide event to bring attention and sales to small, local businesses. The events that day will include the traditional appearance of Santa Claus, who will lead a march from the Flossmoor Public Library to the tree lighting at Park Place.
The event not only provides a memory-making holiday experience but brings people downtown and to Flossmoor Commons, which will be a boost for local businesses.
More special events will follow on successive Saturdays, Dec. 4 and Dec. 11, and conclude with the parade of decorated village vehicles on Thursday, Dec. 16.
"I really felt like that would be a way to lift up and support the small businesses by wrapping the tree lighting around that day," she said.
Starting early also presented some logistical challenges. Village staff members in public works, police and fire departments had to reconfigure their work. Public works crews, for example, were putting up lights in the downtown area on Nov. 4, a few weeks before the task usually is done.
"They were so willing to take on the challenge and have scurried around to get all the lights up in time, which is just really speaks to the team effort that it takes," she said, noting that police and fire department staff have shown the same spirit.
But the advantage to starting early, Wright thinks, will be to make the Flossmoor holiday experience more accessible and inclusive than ever. She noted that in the past, Winterfest was held the day after Homewood's big Holiday Lights festival, and that might have hurt attendance some.
With holiday activities distributed over several weeks, Wright said there might be better chances that people busy with work, school and other holiday events will be able to find something they can attend in downtown Flossmoor.
Wright expects that accessibility to serve what she sees as the main mission of the village's holiday activities — to welcome everyone to gatherings and renew a sense of community.
She said the activities are all planned so they help enact the village motto: "Welcoming. Beautiful. Connected."
Holiday events might sometimes seem to focus on families with children, but Wright wants not only to make the holidays magical for them but to make sure everyone feels welcome, including people who are single or older.
"I want to think about all the residents. There might be grandparents who live in town that don't have grandchildren here. I want them to plug themselves into these events because I think when we are gathered, multiculturally and multi-generationally, we are stronger and better," she said.
Saturday, Nov. 27
Santa Claus will visit with youngsters in front of Flossmoor Public Library from 3 to 5 p.m., and the H-F Lions Club will provide hot coco. Cookies from Meijer will be available. Windows on Sterling will feature performances by Phil Lee and other local DJs.
Santa will lead a parade of carolers to Park Place at Flossmoor Park for the annual holiday tree lighting at 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 4
Tours at Janet Gustafson's famous gingerbread village. Reservations from 10 a.m. to noon or from 4 to 6 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 11
Professional story teller Emma L. Anderson, a Homewood-Flossmoor High School graduate and Chicago-based actor, will bring holiday tales to life at 1 p.m. in the Flossmoor Public Library. Guests will also receive a take-home craft from Panda Baby Cookies.
Thursday, Dec. 16
Parade of decorated village vehicles begins at 4:30 p.m. Residents who do not live along the route can gather at Heather Hill School, where temporary bleachers will be set up for parade viewing. The parade route map is available at https://bit.ly/floss-parade-2021.