By David A. F. Sweet
It’s never easy to add excitement to a long-time, beloved event, but the Friends of Lake Forest Parks & Recreation Foundation has managed to do just that with the annual Tree Lighting Holiday Celebration in Market Square on Friday, Nov. 25.
For the first time since it started in the 1980s, the tree lighting does not signal the end of the event. The band Hello Weekend will be performing afterward from 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Food and drinks will be available for purchase as the band jams. Not only that, portable heaters will keep spectators warm, and portable bathrooms will be available as well.
The Tree Lighting Holiday Celebration has all sort of fun items for kids to enjoy. “We are focusing on having people be able to spend more time at the event,” said Jackie Greca of the Friends of Lake Forest Parks & Recreation Foundation, who noted the free ceremony will start earlier than usual with a 2:30 p.m. kickoff. Of course, all of the old favorites remain that have attracted families in the past: free cookies, arts and crafts activities, visits with Santa, a caroling concert by the Lake Forest High School Choristers – even a guy roasting chestnuts. “People say they love coming to the tree lighting event because it feels like they are in a Hallmark movie,” Greca said. “It is so beloved because it is classic and timeless. There are people with their strollers, couples, and grandparents there with their families.” That doesn’t mean challenges are absent in putting it on every year. The top obstacle? The uncertainty of the weather. “We unfortunately can’t do the tree lighting indoors, so our event is rain or shine,” Greca said. “There have been times when it has been 60 degrees and other times when it has felt like 30 below. We need to plan for all types of weather, and that is why we are bringing in the portable heaters and warm drinks for people to enjoy.”
Greca recalled the first time she brought her children to the tree lighting.
“After the tree had been lit, my kids asked to go back to see the tree during the season. They were a little disappointed,” she said. “They asked, ‘Where did all of the people go? Where is the hot chocolate?’ They didn’t realize that just the tree stays up all season and all of the extras and the people only last a few hours. “Maybe that is also why tree lighting is so memorable -- because the magic of the moment only comes around once a year for a few hours.” And this year, that magic will last longer than ever before. The event is put on by the Friends of Lake Forest Parks and Rec Foundation. Donations to the non-profit can be made here.