Crowds thronged to the Riverside Holiday Stroll in 2019, officially ushering in the holiday season. | Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer

For nearly 50 years, the Riverside community has kicked off the holiday season with the annual Holiday Stroll — an event held in downtown Riverside and throughout the business districts to spread yuletide cheer and neighborly camaraderie.

Though paused for the first time last year since 1974 due to the pandemic, the cherished Riverside tradition returns this December — albeit scaled back quite a bit to ensure holiday cheer while keeping health and safety in mind.

The Riverside Chamber of Commerce welcomes Riversiders and neighbors of all ages to gather in the heart of the village for the 2021 Holiday Stroll on Friday, Dec. 3.

“I’m glad it’s coming back,” said Brian Brennan, longtime Riverside resident and lead organizer of the Holiday Stroll. “We want people to enjoy themselves and come out to downtown Riverside and support our businesses, which are the mainstay of our community. It’s a chance to be out with your friends and enjoy a very fun night.”

From 5:30 to 9 p.m., the stroll will feature open houses and light refreshments at various downtown Riverside businesses, outdoor holiday crafts, carolers crooning favorite Christmas songs, an appearance from Santa Claus, and of course, the lighting of Riverside’s Christmas tree.

The fun kicks off at 5:30 p.m., when Santa makes his way to Centennial Park (Longcommon Road and Forest Avenue) to help local students illuminate the village’s Christmas tree, which will take place around 6 p.m. Following the tree lighting, Santa will hang around the park for the evening, hearing wish lists from kids and stopping for festive photo ops with families.

While you’re in the park, stick around for the sweet sounds of the season brought to you by carolers rocking around the Christmas tree to drum up season’s greetings.

Old-fashioned Christmas vibes will abound as horse and wagon rides will convey visitors throughout the evening up and down picturesque East Burlington Street. Take advantage of the opportunity to celebrate the season like Riverside’s first residents did in the late 1800s.

If you have kids, don’t forget to stop by Riverside Garage, 18 East Ave., for pony rides and a petting zoo.

Unlike years past, which featured many indoor activities, this year’s program will primarily focus on being an outdoor event, with businesses in the area setting up tents outside their storefronts. Visitors are encouraged to stroll throughout the downtown business district, where many merchants will feature holiday treats and other special events.

For more updates on businesses participating in the days leading up to the event, visit the Holiday Stroll’s Facebook page at