Winter Lights celebration will light up downtown Aurora

By Ann Piccininni
Daily Herald correspondent
Posted11/9/2018 6:00 AM
  • Santa and Mrs. Claus will help Aurora get a jump on the holiday season when they arrive Nov. 16 for the city's annual Winter Lights celebration.

    Santa and Mrs. Claus will help Aurora get a jump on the holiday season when they arrive Nov. 16 for the city's annual Winter Lights celebration. Photo by Sean King

Aurora is getting the jump on holiday merriment with a pre-Thanksgiving tree-lighting and parade Friday, Nov. 16, to usher in the jingle bell season.

"It's our annual kickoff to the new season," communications director Clayton Muhammad said. "It's always the Friday before Thanksgiving."

Having the Winter Lights celebration a little earlier makes it easier for people to connect without competing with other events going on during the Thanksgiving weekend, he said.

"It's just a nice, energetic time to bring the family downtown for a fun evening," he said. "People go right into Thanksgiving mode right after that."

The festivities begin at 6:30 p.m. when a holiday parade steps off from the corner of East Benton Street and South Broadway and marches northeast to East Downer Place, crossing the Fox River and proceeding to the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial hall and museum.

Muhammad said the parade will include police and fire units, representatives of downtown businesses, including the Paramount Theatre, and youth dance groups.

"There's going to be a lot of good energy," he said.

When the parade finishes its quarter-mile route in front of the GAR Museum, Mayor Richard Irvin will light the official holiday tree with the help of Little Miss Aurora and Little Mr. Aurora.

Muhammad said the two elementary school-age children will be crowned with their respective titles at the Nov. 13 city council meeting when last year's Little Miss Aurora, Sienna Flores, and 2017's Little Mr. Aurora, Jeremiah Smith-Jones, will pass their crowns to their successors.

Winners will be selected by a committee from nominations submitted by parents, he said.

Winners of the Downtown Window Decorating Contest also will be recognized at the lighting ceremony.

The glow that will settle over the city' downtown area will continue nightly through the holiday season.

But on this night, the electric, earthbound Christmas lights will be enhanced with a fireworks show along the riverbanks.

The festivities will bring out a host of costumed characters and Santa Claus, along with his wife, Mrs. Claus. After the fireworks, Santa will listen to children's wishes and dreams at the Wyckwood House while his wife will offer children treats.

One of Santa's key helpers will be there, too.

"We bring in a live reindeer that will come and take pictures," Muhammad said. "We find a lot of people use it as a backdrop for holiday photos."

The event will conclude in time for theatergoers to catch opening weekend performances of "The Wizard of Oz" at the Paramount, he said.

"We conclude all of the official things before the curtain for 'The Wizard of Oz,'" he said.

Parking will be available throughout the downtown area.

Dogs are permitted, though canines skittish about booming fireworks may be better left at home.

"We have tons of dogs that take pictures with Santa," he said. "We do caution people that we do have fireworks. We leave it up to the owners."

The fireworks show is sponsored by Chicago Premium Outlets.

"This becomes a really collaborative event for all things Aurora," he said.

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