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posted: 12/1/2013 7:57 PM

Families enjoy Naperville holiday parade on new night

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  • Santa travels down Main Street during the Little Friends Parade of Lights Sunday in downtown Naperville.

       Santa travels down Main Street during the Little Friends Parade of Lights Sunday in downtown Naperville.
    photos by Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Connor Eilers, 4, and his brother Jacob, 6. of Naperville enjoy the Little Friends Parade of Lights Sunday in downtown Naperville.

      Connor Eilers, 4, and his brother Jacob, 6. of Naperville enjoy the Little Friends Parade of Lights Sunday in downtown Naperville.

  • Naperville Central football players Ben Andreas and Jack Wooldridge carry the Class 8A state championship trophy in the Little Friends Parade of Lights Sunday in downtown Naperville.

      Naperville Central football players Ben Andreas and Jack Wooldridge carry the Class 8A state championship trophy in the Little Friends Parade of Lights Sunday in downtown Naperville.

  • Santa travels down Main Street during the Little Friends Parade of Lights Sunday in downtown Naperville.

       Santa travels down Main Street during the Little Friends Parade of Lights Sunday in downtown Naperville.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

 
 

Moving the Little Friends Parade of Lights to a different night didn't seem to deter many who visited downtown Naperville Sunday night for the holiday parade.

Several families were setting up with chairs and blankets more than an hour before the nearly 60 floats started rolling through the streets.

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"It's great because it's at night so everything is lit up," said Randy Markham of Aurora, who has been coming to the parade with his wife and 5-year-old daughter for years. He was a little skeptical of the change to Sunday, but he said it didn't stop his family from attending.

"The jury is still out on having it on a Sunday. We'll see how this turns out. Everyone is already dreading going back to work in the morning, but it's a good way to end the weekend," Markham said.

Usually the parade takes place on the Friday or Saturday evening after Thanksgiving, and it doubles as a lighting ceremony for the 300,000 bulbs adorning trees and rooftops throughout the city's commercial core, said Kristi Landorf, executive director of Little Friends, which serves people with autism and other developmental disabilities.

But this year, downtown lights already have been twinkling for about three weeks, illuminated Nov. 8 to precede the inaugural Edward Hospital Naperville Marathon.

"We're hoping the time and date change will draw even more people and get more folks involved in the event," Landorf said.

Some people even got their pets in the spirit, including Nancy Jurinek and her poodle, Dudley, who was dressed in a red vest and Santa hat. The two are part of a therapy dog team with the Naperville Area Humane Society and were enjoying the other parade-goers who came up to pet Dudley and compliment him on his outfit.

"He's a good sport about it," said Jurinek, who lives in Naperville.

"I love the sense of community and tradition of kicking off the holiday season," Jurinek said about the parade.

While some people like the atmosphere of the parade, others were waiting for one special person.

"I like Santa the best," said 4-year-old Aby Smith, sitting between her mom, Breann, and her grandmother Kim Linger. "And I love the people giving out candy. It's fun."

"We used to have a parade in Bolingbrook where we live, but not anymore so this is a great one to come to," Breann Smith said.

Santa himself was looking forward to another year of entertaining the families at the parade.

David Neesley has been portraying Santa around Naperville since the 1980s and is in his second year at the downtown parade.

"This is the best part, seeing the kids' faces," he said. "That's the magic of it, you've just got to believe."

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