As hard as it may be to believe, Thanksgiving is less than three weeks away and that means Joliet's annual Light Up the Holidays Festival and Parade is right around the corner.
Now in its 15th year, the event is traditionally held on the Friday after Thanksgiving and brings as many as 25,000 people to downtown Joliet for the festivities that culminate with the lighting of the Christmas tree in Van Buren Plaza and the holiday parade.
As it has in the past, the University of St. Francis is sponsoring the parade, which features bands and floats supporting area businesses and organizations. Bernie the St. Bernard, USF's mascot, is this year's grand marshal.
The tree lighting takes place at 5:15 p.m., attended by Mayor Tom Giarrante, Joliet City Council members, USF officials and others, followed by the parade at 5:30 p.m.
There are also a number of events throughout the day, including:
- 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. – Free admission to the Joliet Area Historical Museum, which will feature holiday-themed arts and crafts and the “Strike up the Band!” exhibit, honoring the 100th anniversary of the Joliet Township High School marching band. Local bands will perform on the museum's Caterpillar Auditorium Stage at noon, 1 and 2 p.m.
- 10 a.m. – Ice sculpting demonstration by Joliet Junior College’s culinary arts students outside the Joliet Area Historical Museum entrance.
- 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. – Free cookie decorating at Gji’s Sweet Shoppe for $2 per cookie (while supplies last) and children's photos with Mrs. Claus will be taken for $7. Photo with frame included.
- 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – Brunch with Santa at the Joliet Junior College Renaissance Center. Adults, $12.95; children 10 and under, $9.95. To make a reservation, call 815 280-1404, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.rencen.info.
- Noon to 4 p.m. – Fantastic Fun Fair, sponsored by the Joliet Park District and Forest Preserve District of Will County, with free games and activities for children, will be at the Renaissance Center.
- 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. – Holiday fun at the Joliet Public Library includes crafts, reading, and pictures with Santa and carolers on the library’s Chicago Street steps.
- 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. – “Advent Adventure,” featuring crafts and treats, at First and Santa Cruz Lutheran Parish, 55 W. Benton St.. For more information, call 815-722-4800.
- The annual Festival of Trees at the Rialto Square Theatre, 102 N. Chicago St., Joliet, will be open to the public from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. General admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and children under 12. Children under 2 are free. The theater's also hosting a Teddy Bear Tea at 9:30 a.m. and noon and screening the movies Happy Feet II at 3 p.m. and Polar Express at 7 p.m. For more information, admission costs or reservations, call 815-726-6600.