Shiny & bright: Inaugural Illuminate Northbrook Hot Cocoa Stroll kicks off a new tradition
A new tradition lit up Northbrook this past weekend.
Led by Village President Kathryn Ciesla at the microphone, approximately 500 people who had gathered in Village Green on Friday started counting down from 10.
When the crowd reached one, three men from the village's Public Works Department flipped a switch to light a figure of a polar bear and a nearby fir tree just inside the intersection of Shermer and Meadow roads.
The inaugural Illuminate Northbrook Hot Cocoa Stroll was in the books.
"This is the first time we've ever done this," said Ciesla, joined by her mother, Nancy, while her father, Jim, was pouring free hot chocolate in the Rotary Club of Northbrook tent.
"It's my mission to bring more events to the downtown, and actually more events throughout Northbrook," Ciesla said. "This board is very committed to our businesses and getting the community together. Because the community wants more opportunities like this, so we're going to do it. This is year one."
The Rotary was holding its Coat Off Your Back drive, exchanging Illuminate Northbrook mugs for donated coats. The mugs were gone in about 10 minutes, well before the 6 p.m. Friday tree lighting.
Village communications specialist Kylie Cerk said a different collectible mug will be offered each year.
"We're encouraging people to collect them throughout the years. Like the Christkindlmarket, is kind of what we were thinking," she said.
The coats would be donated to World Relief for distribution to refugees from Afghanistan, said the Rotary Club's Kathi Quinn, also director of membership for the Northbrook Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
"One of the nice things about the people in Northbrook is a lot of them are bringing coats off their back and buying new coats in our stores to donate, because these (refugees) are people who are coming here with nothing. It's been a really wonderful program for us," Quinn said.
The Sunset Foods popcorn wagon attracted a line down the sidewalk along Meadow Road from before the event's 5:30 p.m. start until after it ended. Two violinists, Emily Galloway and Lindsay Warfel, played Christmas carols. Children received 3-D glasses to enhance the effect of the lights.
The event drew the Northbrook Police Department's therapy dog, Chloe. The purebred golden retriever patiently stood for photos in front of the illuminated polar bear, unimpressed by the tiny Santa hat Officer Teresa Drewes momentarily strapped on her head.
The winner of an ugly Christmas sweater contest also earned a commemorative mug.
By the looks of it there were many contenders, including Northbrook resident Alex Pike, there with his wife, Chanel, and their three children.
"We are very excited for the community spirit that is going on here," Chanel Pike said.
"I love that they are starting a new tradition around town," she said. "I think it brings a lot of the families together, especially after the crazy past 18 months that we've had. It's nice to be able to celebrate safely but also bring in the spirit with the lights and with the local vendors, with the popcorn and the glasses for the kids. It just seems like a great, free, around-town way to support the community."