Call it a rally: How Elk Grove Village plans to ring in the holiday season

  • Elk Grove Village's annual tree lighting ceremony normally attracts thousands. But this year's event, being labeled a "rally" by village officials, includes required masks and entry points to a gated area on the Village Green.

    Elk Grove Village's annual tree lighting ceremony normally attracts thousands. But this year's event, being labeled a "rally" by village officials, includes required masks and entry points to a gated area on the Village Green. Daily Herald File Photo 2009

  • Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson on Thursday announced plans for a Nov. 27 tree lighting and rally honoring first responders and essential workers. He was joined by Police Chief Chuck Walsh, from left, Trustee Pat Feichter and Fire Chief Richard Mikel.

      Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson on Thursday announced plans for a Nov. 27 tree lighting and rally honoring first responders and essential workers. He was joined by Police Chief Chuck Walsh, from left, Trustee Pat Feichter and Fire Chief Richard Mikel. Christopher Placek | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 10/8/2020 7:02 PM

Calling it a rally combined with a tree lighting, Elk Grove Village officials Thursday announced plans to ring in the holiday season by paying tribute to first responders and essential workers.

Thousands regularly attend the annual village tree-lighting ceremony on the Village Green next to village hall. But amid the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's day-after-Thanksgiving event will be within a fenced perimeter, and village staff will be at four entry checkpoints to enforce a mask-wearing mandate.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Mayor Craig Johnson said his staff didn't talk to either state or county health officials, but they have consulted lawyers, who believe the village can legally host the event as an official government-sponsored rally.

To be sure, the village board next Tuesday is set to approve a formal resolution sanctioning the event, which is formally called the "First Responders and Essential Workers Holiday Tree Lighting & Rally." It's scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 27.

By strictly enforcing proper mask wearing within the gated area -- and providing masks to those who don't bring one -- Johnson tried to allay concerns about the six-foot social distancing standard, with perhaps a large crowd expected.

"With them wearing masks and being outside in the air, we don't think distancing will be required," Johnson said during a Thursday afternoon news conference in the village boardroom.

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"We wanna make sure we do this safely," he added. "We wanna get back to normal activities in a safe manner."

The light display calls for the main tree to be decorated with white lights, in tribute to health care workers. Rows of smaller trees on each side of the splash pad will be in blue, for police, and red, for firefighters. Green lights throughout the courtyard will represent all essential workers and the community as a whole, Johnson said.

"We wanna make sure they know how much we appreciate what they're doing," he said.

The tree lighting will be followed by a fireworks show, with a similar theme: the first minute, red; the next, blue; followed by white, green, and a grand finale.

The night concludes with a visit from Santa Claus, who will pass out candy canes to children. But unlike past years, kids won't be able to sit on Santa's lap, Johnson said.

It's expected to cost the village $40,000 to put on the event. Normally $60,000 is budgeted, since previous ceremonies have included concerts by the likes of The Ides of March, The Buckinghams and Gary Lewis and the Playboys.

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