'The best day of the year': Lisle pours on the charm this weekend to jump-start the holiday season
If you can't find something festive to do this weekend in Lisle, you're not trying hard enough.
The park district, heritage society, village and downtown business association all have special events packing the weekend with joy and cheer as the most wonderful time of the year draws near.
The park district hosts a Candy Cane Hunt, a choral concert, a brunch with Santa and cookies with Mrs. Claus.
The heritage society throws its annual Once Upon a Christmas celebration at the Museums at Lisle Station Park.
The village hosts the Santa Light Parade, a tree-lighting ceremony and a cookies and cocoa station at village hall, while village volunteers turn the entire area into the Lights of Lisle with 2,500 luminarias brightened by real candles.
The Downtown Lisle Retail & Business Association hosts Merry on Main with a word-search game for families and specials in several stores.
And a group of volunteers puts on the Lisle Santa Train, making two trips to the "North Pole" (aka Chicago) and back all in one day.
"It's the best day of the year for me," said Wayne Dunham, a retired journalist and public relations professional who has planned the Santa Train, now in its 26th year, since its inception. "It's evolved into a pretty big deal."
Time-honored and true, these celebrations draw crowds to a downtown that's still home to a tailor, a shoe cobbler and a custom framer.
"All of our businesses are independently owned and they're all unique offerings," said Autumn Geist of the Downtown Lisle Retail & Business Association, co-owner of The Collective + Makery. "We still have all those little, charming things."
Charm is the calling card of many of the activities giving the weekend a "natural flow" for many who take part, said Karen Arnold, deputy village clerk.
On Saturday, the flow can start with a Candy Cane Hunt for children ages 1 to 10 at the band shell in Lisle Community Park, 1825 Short St. For $6 for Lisle residents or $9 for nonresidents, little ones can run around the lawn near the shell seeking the twisty peppermint treats and keeping all they find.
In downtown Lisle, the Saturday fun strikes up with a visit to the Museums at Lisle Station Park for Once Upon a Christmas, a stroll through downtown for Merry on Main or a pit stop in commuter parking lot B for food trucks, all of which run 3 to 8 p.m.
The museums at 921 School St. will be decked out for a throwback event that includes brick-oven baking, wagon rides, blacksmithing, model railroad trains, crafts and music.
Window displays and seasonal specials will greet customers as they stop in Lisle's independent shops, seeking words hidden in each store to complete their word-search game for the chance to win prizes.
Meanwhile, in commuter parking lot B, a "unique holiday lighted loo experience" called the Service Sanitation Jingle Johns could prove a surprise.
This collection of porta-potties isn't for the usual bathroom business, but for entertainment. Stringed with lights that give them faces and sitting atop a flatbed truck, the Jingle Johns -- yes, truly the porta potties themselves -- will tell jokes and stories as they put on a half-hour holiday show.
"Oh, we just have to have these," Arnold said, recounting her reaction when she heard about the free display. "I just think they're so cute."
The Jingle Johns may be "cute," but Santa is the star.
Jolly old St. Nick will roll into town during the Santa Light Parade beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Main Street, Burlington Avenue and School Street, ending at the museums, where he will be available to hear children's wishes.
An ice carving demonstration begins at 5 p.m. at the museums, followed by a 6 p.m. tree-lighting at village hall, which will illuminate a spruce planted in 2016 outside the building at 925 Burlington Ave.
Festivities begin anew at 9:45 a.m. Sunday with the departure of the first Lisle Santa Train, which is carefully timed to allow it to venture to the "North Pole" of downtown Chicago without disrupting Metra or freight traffic, longtime organizer Dunham said.
The second train departs at 1:45 p.m., and each offers a 75-minute journey with Santa, Mrs. Claus and costumed characters played by professional actors, all to re-enact the classic holiday book and movie "The Polar Express."
Tickets are $20 each, available through the Lisle Park District's registration site. The experience includes caroling, coloring and a loudspeaker rendition of "The Polar Express." Kids younger than 1 ride free.
"A lot of the children have actually never been on a train ride before," Dunham said. "So they get a big buzz out of that."
Each car on the 11-car Metra commuter train is decorated by local scouting groups, some of whom also are involved with Saturday's Santa Light Parade or with cleanup once the holiday fun is over, Arnold said.
Once Upon A Christmas continues from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, giving children fresh off the Santa Train a chance to pet live reindeer from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. or to join interactive singalongs with Stephanie Boesso and piano students from the Piano Frontiers Ensemble from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.