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updated: 12/1/2011 12:23 PM

Lisle celebrates with two days of Christmas traditions

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  • A model railroad display is just one of the holiday traditions the Lisle Heritage Society embraces in the annual Once Upon a Christmas celebration, part of a weekend of festivities that includes the village's tree-lighting and luminaria display.

      A model railroad display is just one of the holiday traditions the Lisle Heritage Society embraces in the annual Once Upon a Christmas celebration, part of a weekend of festivities that includes the village's tree-lighting and luminaria display.
    Daily Herald File Photo

  • Santa will have live reindeer with him at the Museums of Lisle Station Park on Sunday during Once Upon a Christmas. Santa and Mrs. Claus will meet with children at the museum on Saturday and Sunday.

      Santa will have live reindeer with him at the Museums of Lisle Station Park on Sunday during Once Upon a Christmas. Santa and Mrs. Claus will meet with children at the museum on Saturday and Sunday.
    Courtesy of Diane Tuscher-Ancede

 
 

Holiday traditions are part of the charm of Once Upon a Christmas.

Guests may taste fresh gingerbread, make paper chains, smell apple pies baking in the brick oven, hear the clanking tools of the blacksmiths, watch a room filled with working model trains and, of course, visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus in the baggage room of the Old Depot train station.

The two-day free event uses the talents of about 50 volunteers just in the museum complex, said event Chairwoman Diane Tuscher-Ancede. Without doubt, another 50 are used for a number of activities in downtown Lisle that tie the weekend together into a single Christmas package.

The fun begins with the Lisle Christmas Parade at 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, that winds around the downtown area and welcomes Santa to town. After he and Mrs. Claus arrive at the Old Depot, there is the official lighting of the village's multistory Christmas tree, the singing of Christmas carols and the enjoying of hot chocolate and cookies inside the village hall.

The Lisle Park District will host hayrides, and the village will sponsor an ice-carving demo on Saturday.

Members of Lisle Heritage Society dressed in period costumes will greet guests at all four of the museum buildings at 921 School St., three blocks east of Main Street in downtown Lisle.

The society keeps the past alive through continuing preservation, collecting items of historical interest and presenting programs and events of historical value. Membership information is available at the Museums of Lisle Station Park.

The society began its holiday event, first called Christmas at the Old Depot, on a frigid Dec. 12, 1982, while the depot was still under renovation and without heat. It was a start to saving traditions for a fast-growing suburban village.

"We were looking for ways to preserve history," said Marilyn Cawiezel, a charter member of the Lisle Heritage Society and local historian.

As a fundraiser, another early member, Marg Bryan, designed the first Ladies Guild keepsake ornament of a locomotive from bread dough. The ornaments were such a success that the tradition continues, and this year's 30th keepsake ornaments are available at the Ladies Guild Gift Shop in the Netzley-Yender House, one of the museum buildings.

The guild continues to hand-make each ornament, many in wood, but never made another bread dough one, according to Cawiezel. The 2011 ornament is a flustered miniature teddy bear entangled in a string of colored lights.

The early Christmas events were introducing holiday traditions the heritage society members wanted to preserve of the village's agricultural roots that revolved around the train depot. Now those same simple activities may be enjoyed by children of all ages.

"We create events so people may enjoy some of the flavor of how we got to this time in history and they can build their own traditions," said Joe Bennett, another founding member of the heritage society.

Bennett is one of a dozen volunteers who will operate a variety of HO-model trains in an elaborate layout in the basement of the 1850s Netzley-Yender House.

In the house's summer kitchen, visitors may sample warm apple pie and mashed-potato fudge. Students of piano teacher Stephanie Boessa will play Christmas carols to fill the house with music.

In the parlor, two decorated trees feature Lisle family ornaments. Bring yours, along with names of your family and the dates you moved to or were born in Lisle. The ornament may be made or purchased, but not fragile or perishable.

In the 1840s Beaubien Tavern-Inn, children will learn paper crafts such as cutting snowflakes from folded paper. Christmas cider will be served here, too. This restored building allows visitors to see the original wooden beams that went into its construction prior to its use as a tollgate on the Old Plank Road, today's Ogden Avenue. Part of a reconstructed road of planks is outside the building.

At the blacksmith's barn, volunteers pound away and create iron hooks that sell in the guild's gift shop that can be used for hanging stockings with care by a chimney.

The Lisle CB&O Railroad Depot, where Santa greets visitors, served the village from 1874 to 1978, before it was moved a block to the museum grounds. The building also served to send telegraphs and as a post office, and related items are displayed inside the building.

The Lisle Junior High School jazz band will entertain visitors to the depot. In the station master's quarters are several decorated Christmas trees. Follow the aroma to get a taste of gingerbread cookies baking in the rear kitchen.

Immediately outside the depot, a huge, red, restored 1880s Chicago, Burlington and Quincy way car is displayed that some visitors may call a caboose. With today's rail system, way cars are seldom needed, so children may want to see in person one they only read about in books. Their moms and dads may remember waving to the train employees who occupied the window seats in the way car.

At dusk on Saturday, 2,000 glowing luminarias will line all the streets that encompass downtown Lisle. Dozens of volunteers of all ages help in the display. The postcard-like sight is mesmerizing.

Some of the activities repeat on Sunday, Dec. 4, with several additions. Courtesy of the Lisle Park District, live reindeer will be on hand to greet visitors to the museum complex on Sunday.

Also on Sunday, two popular Polar Express Children's Christmas Trains will depart the Lisle Metra train station at precisely 9:45 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. The 75-minute train ride will include costumed characters, elves, singing and other surprises.

Advance $16 tickets for the 16th annual ride are a must for each passenger. No tickets are available at the station. Details are at StayinLisle.com or at (800) 733-9811.

From toddlers to grandparents from near and far, Once Upon a Christmas is sure to bring back memories or make new ones.

• Joan Broz writes about Lisle.

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