Holiday parades have been happening in St. Charles for more than 30 years. This weekend, the city will again light up with the Holiday Homecoming and Electric Christmas Parade.
Events will start at 5 p.m. Friday Nov. 29, and run through 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30. Throughout the two days there will plenty of holiday-themed activities to get everyone in the Christmas spirit.
Mayor Raymond Rogina will light the city, officially starting the holidays. The lighting ceremony will take place at 5 p.m. Friday at the First Street Plaza. The choirs from St. Charles North and East high schools will perform, and Santa and Mrs. Claus will make an appearance.
Musician and composer Jim Masters, a St. Charles native, will give the first public performance of a song he wrote, "In St. Charles," which has been designated the city's official song. Attendees will be invited to join in the chorus while they witness the lighting of the city's holiday tree.
On Saturday, there will be a showing of "The Polar Express" at 10:30 a.m. at the Arcada Theatre, 105 E. Main St. Seating for the show will open at 9:30 a.m.
"All of our activities are very will attended. Last year, Lighting of the Lights was very well attended, and we nearly filled up all 900 seats at Arcada Theatre for the free movie," said Lynne Schwartz, director of the Downtown St. Charles Partnership, which organizes the festival.
"The culmination of the weekend's festivities last year drew a record crowd of about 13,000 people."
Also part of the festivities are horse-drawn sleigh rides that will take guests on a relaxing ride through the city. Rides will start Saturday and will run from 1 to 3:30 p.m. The sleigh rides, along with most other activities, are free.
Starting this weekend are visits with Santa, which will continue through Dec. 22. On Saturdays and Sundays from 1-4 p.m., guests can visit Santa at his house at the First Street Plaza and take pictures with him.
The main event of the weekend is the Electric Christmas Parade, which will step off at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, and proceed down Main Street between Sixth Street and Fourth Avenue. All of the lights in the city will be turned off to better set off the lighted floats as they drive through downtown St. Charles.
This year's parade features Boy Scout Troop 1 as the Grand Marshal in honor of its 100th anniversary, and will showcase Miss Illinois 2013 Brittany Smith.
"The first parade was held around December 1980 and it has just taken off from there," said Steven Martin, Chief Marshal of the parade. Martin said he has been involved with the Holiday Homecoming events for the past 34 years.
Martin's job is to recruit volunteer parade marshals and then provide guidance to them. His biggest task is to keep the parade rolling. This year's parade will include almost 50 lighted elements.
Organizers say many people don't realize how much time and effort goes into putting the event together.
"In addition to the Downtown St. Charles Partnership staff and our sponsors who support this event, we have a very active and dedicated committee who start working on Holiday Homecoming in July," said Schwartz.
"These are volunteers who put in countless hours to ensure a fun event for everyone. Our staff and committee also work closely with the St. Charles police and Public Works departments to coordinate all aspects of safety and logistics for the weekend."