Wheeling kicked off its holiday season with music, lights and plenty of hot liquids Sunday night during its annual tree lighting ceremony.
A small group of brass players from Wheeling High School regaled the crowd huddled around the gazebo. Many in the crowd were clutching cookies and cups of hot chocolate, courtesy of Market Square Restaurant. Some children danced to the music.
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The gazebo was festooned with strings of lights and evergreens, sending a warm glow into the chilly night.
The event was culminated by the tree lighting and an appearance by Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus.
Village President Judy Abruscato and village board members were on hand to share in the festivities.
The event originally took place at village hall but now seems to have found a permanent home at Friendship Park.
"It's special because of all the people that come, all the children that come and what we can give back to the residents of the village of Wheeling," she said.
Village Trustee Dean Argiris said, "I think it's nice to get all the community out. It's a place to gather to kick off the holidays. It's such a pretty area, and our guys have worked so hard to make it extra special."
Wheeling resident Cheryl Brandt was among the dozens in attendance, accompanied by her four children.
"The kids get excited seeing the lights turned on and when Santa arrives," she said.
She said comes every year and even remembers when she was a child participating in Lollipop Lane Christmas festivities in the village.
Not everyone in attendance was from Wheeling.
Richard Boun and his family, who live on the edge of Buffalo Grove, enjoyed the ceremony, along with wife Rafaela, 1-year-old son Parker and 4-year-old daughter Sophia. It was their first time attending.
"We found out Santa was coming, too. So, that really got the kids excited," he said.