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Article updated: 11/24/2012 12:22 AM

Tree-lighting caps milestone year in Arlington Hts.

Arlington Heights' Christmas lights were turned on Friday night, and Elisabeth Jaszka and Grace Kozurek, both 13, were right in the thick of things.

Arlington Heights' Christmas lights were turned on Friday night, and Elisabeth Jaszka and Grace Kozurek, both 13, were right in the thick of things.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Kailee Falvo, 17, of Hoffman Estates waits in the cold for Arlington Heights’ annual tree-lighting festival to start Friday.

Kailee Falvo, 17, of Hoffman Estates waits in the cold for Arlington Heights' annual tree-lighting festival to start Friday.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Katie Busse, center, and other Charles Dickens carolers from Hersey High School sing Christmas songs Friday at Arlington Heights’ annual tree-lighting festival at North School Park.

Katie Busse, center, and other Charles Dickens carolers from Hersey High School sing Christmas songs Friday at Arlington Heights' annual tree-lighting festival at North School Park.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

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By Eileen O. Daday

After 125 years, Arlington Heights came full circle on Friday night.

One year after launching the village's start of its quasquicentennial, or 125th anniversary of incorporation, the activities culminated exactly where they had started: at the community tree-lighting ceremony.

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To commemorate the occasion, members of Arlington Heights' Special Events Commission handed out battery-operated tea lights to residents as they entered North School Park. The better to light up the night, they said.

More than 1,000 people turned out for the annual tradition. Families with children bundled up in snowsuits waited anxiously underneath the 30-foot-blue spruce tree, eager for the light display to go on and kick off their holiday season.

Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder headlined the event, acknowledging that it would be her last in office. She's retiring in April after a 20-year career.

"This is our final farewell to our 125th birthday," Mulder said. "We've had such wonderful events throughout the entire year."

In fact, the 125th anniversary year played out in a variety of ways, including displaying nearly two dozen decorated fiberglass locomotives throughout the village, individual school recognition projects, a teen video contest, calendar and banners throughout the central business district.

"There's been such a community feel to all that we've accomplished," said Lauree Harp, who chaired the anniversary committee. "We got so many people involved, including schools, the library and park district. Everybody came together and celebrated their history with us."

Businesses in the area supported the anniversary programs so much that the committee raised more than $100,000, which helped provide seed money for their various giveaways and public art displays.

After expenses, members still had $22,000, which they planned to donate to local charities.

It all added up to a successful backdrop for the annual tree-lighting ceremony, which Mulder handed off to her children and grandchildren to do the honors.

With the throw of the switch, they turned on 80,000 colored and crystal lights on displays throughout North School Park, and another half million lights on more than 300 trees across the village's downtown.

In a nod to the milestone anniversary, Arlington Heights Public Works officials displayed one of the miniature trains in the fountain at Harmony Park, decked out in a candy cane motif.

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