The City of Lights is planning a new tradition involving exactly what Aurora earned its nickname for -- lights.
The Winter Lights holiday walk will expand upon Aurora's holiday tree-lighting tradition by bringing in elements of another recurring event, the Aurora ArtWalk, and a downtown art installation called the Vacant Window Project.
Melissa Mercado of Cultural Creatives helped organize the event and says it's a hybrid between an art festival and a holiday celebration that will bring ice sculpture, art for sale, carols, holiday lights and Santa to the streets of downtown Aurora from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16.
The city chose to expand the event this year in an attempt to bring more people downtown, spokesman Kevin Stahr said.
"The winter lights event will offer plenty of fun to people and families of all ages with decorations, shopping, entertainment and, of course, the tree-lighting itself," Stahr said.
The event begins with a holiday art sale at the David L. Pierce Art and History Center, 20 E. Downer Place, where artist Joe Gagnepain will create an ice sculpture outside. Strolling carolers will greet attendees along the streets as they head to a 5:30 p.m. performance by the Fox Valley Festival Chorus at the Millennium Plaza along the Fox River on Stolp Avenue.
"We're going to be singing familiar Christmas carols. 'Up on the Rooftop' ... 'Rudolph,' all the ones you want to hear," said chorus member Linda Quantock of North Aurora. "Santa's going to arrive, so we'll greet him with songs."
After the concert, the stage will shift to North Island Center, 8 E. Galena Blvd., where Santa indeed will arrive. The city's holiday tree will be lit for the first time at 6 p.m. with Santa and Mrs. Claus, Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner and the young winners of the annual Miss Merry Christmas and Jack Frost contest.
Festivities will continue this year after the official tree-lighting, with free hot cocoa and Santa available for photos at the Art and History Center. More holiday treats will be for sale and various musicians will provide festive tunes at River's Edge Cafe, 14 W. Downer Place.
Luminarias along the sidewalks will light the path from one location to another, and Mercado said about a dozen businesses will sport decorated windows as part of a Winter Lights decorating contest.
"We're hoping that we get lots of groups milling around and taking a look at the lights," Mercado said. "It's not a long distance, but we're encouraging people to walk around and see what there is to see."
The event was moved up several days to accommodate families who may be out of town for Thanksgiving, and it comes at the close of a year celebrating Aurora's 175th anniversary.
"We thought this would be a great new Aurora tradition to build on for the future," Stahr said.