Riverside, Brookfield and North Riverside set to kick off the holidays with celebratory events. | Shanel Romain

Though last year’s Riverside Holiday Stroll emerged from its pandemic hibernation on a smaller, outdoors-only scale, in 2022 the village’s beloved tradition of community, camaraderie and Christmas cheer returns to its full-blown glory, marking Riverside’s official start of the holiday season with the same fanfare it’s brought to the downtown district for nearly five decades.

The Holiday Stroll turns 47 this year and the Riverside Chamber of Commerce plans to welcome Riversiders and other area residents to its business corridors on Friday, Dec. 2, providing an evening of yuletide cheer featuring business open houses and seasonal activities for the whole family.

Amy Regan, a Riverside resident and area realtor who is serving as this year’s stroll committee chair, says this year’s event promises to be the fun Riverside tradition locals have come to love. 

“The village is all lit up, and it’s so pretty at night,” she said. “You go from business to business and see all your friends. Everybody is happy and out in downtown Riverside — it’s so festive.”

From 5:30 to 9 p.m., the town will bustle with holiday crafts, seasonal snacks and refreshments, Christmas carols, and of course, the lighting of downtown Riverside’s Christmas tree.

Shya, alongside his mom Sarah Leekha sit on Santa’s lap during last year’s Riverside Holiday Stroll. | Shanel Romain

The merriment kicks off at 5:30 p.m., when Santa and Mrs. Claus travel via fire truck to Centennial Park (Longcommon Road and Forest Avenue), mingling with guests before helping village officials and children illuminate the grand tree. Carolers will also be on hand, setting the mood with classic renditions of holiday favorites. 

Following the tree lighting, the Clauses will head across the street to the Riverside Public Library, 1 Burling Road, for family photo ops. While at the library, stop by the crafting tables for ornament and bookmark making, and take a peek at the holiday gift shop. 

While in the immediate area, pop next door to Riverside Township Hall, 27 Riverside Road, for yuletide carols from Central Elementary School’s choir from 6 to 6:30 p.m., and fun balloon art by Tommy Twister, an annual Holiday Stroll favorite.

Frances, sits on her dad Steve Michelini’s shoulders right after the lighting of the tree during Riverside’s Holiday Stroll in 2021. | Shanel Romain

Just up the block, visit First American Bank, 15 Riverside Road, for ornament making and popcorn; Centre Physical Therapy, 1 Riverside Road, for children’s crafts, jewelry sales, refreshments and a performance from the Riverside Brookfield High School choir at 6:30 p.m.; and Sips and Sweets Cafe, 1 Riverside Road, for photos with Anna and Elsa from Disney’s “Frozen” and music by violin students from Riverside’s Anderson Music Studio.

Then, hop aboard the fun train inside Riverside’s Metra station, where you can get your face painted by artist Sheri Winklemann, enjoy music from the RBHS choir at 7:30 p.m. and get a head start on your holiday shopping by visiting local craft vendors selling greeting cards, artisan soaps, hand-painted ornaments, handbags, crystal wire-wrapped jewelry and one-of-a-kind holiday decor. 

Along the Forest Avenue/East Avenue, enter the Riverside Masonic Temple, 40 Forest Ave., for the return of the fan-favorite model train display. While there, don’t forget to grab the mic and try your hand at some karaoke — or take a pass and opt for a warm mug of hot chocolate instead. 

Enjoy cookies and cider while getting acquainted with Riverside’s newest restaurant, The Sandtrap Grill & Tap, 31 Forest Ave. and, afterward, head next door to La Estancia, 25 Forest Ave., for some Ponche Navideño — a traditional Mexican hot fruit punch — and a south-of-the-border seasonal sampling of tamales. 

Justin Stefanski hugs one of Santa’s reindeers during the Riverside Holiday Stroll in 2021. | Shanel Romain/Staff

The animals are back this year at Riverside Garage, 19 East Ave. Enjoy pony rides and the petting zoo — and don’t forget to try the hot chocolate served up by Young Life and s’mores from local Boy Scouts. 

Right outside in a popup tent will be Riverside Little League, offering a Chicago Cubs tickets raffle and holiday treats. Right outside the downtown water tower, visit the Riverside Parks and Recreation booth to build your own marshmallow snowman. 

Popping back on the east side of Centennial Park, enjoy Christmas cookies and candy treats at Riverside Plumbing Heating and Cooling, 3 Longcommon Road, and holiday treats and a kids movie at Salon Elia, 5 Longcommon Road. 

As always, Burlington Street businesses will be bustling all evening. 

Old-fashioned Christmas vibes will abound as horse-and-wagon rides will convey visitors throughout the evening up and down picturesque Burlington Street. Take advantage of the opportunity to celebrate the season like Riverside’s first residents did in the late 1800s. Rides begin and end at Riverside Foods, 48 E. Burlington St.

Nora Ruemmler melts a marshmallow for her s’more during Riverside’s Holiday Stroll in 2021. | Shanel Romain/Staff

Start your Burlington adventure at La Barra, 2 E. Burlington St., for live holiday music by singer/songwriter Matt Scharpf. Then, stroll along the street and visit the pop-up tents outside of 10 E. Burlington St. featuring holiday crafts, Christmas candy and whole bean coffee. 

Try the hot dog dinner fundraiser for eighth graders at St. Mary Church/St. Paul VI Parish, 40 E. Burlington St.; travel to the Hawaiian islands with a Tiki Christmas room serving hot chocolate and spiced cocktails at Riverside Foods; participate in painting a community art project at Salon D’Amore, 52 E. Burlington St.; feast on cotton candy at A&G Mortgage Solutions, 5½ E. Burlington St.; refill your cups with hot chocolate at Empanadus, 7 E. Burlington St.; pick up turtle Beanie Babies (while supplies last) from Riverside Bank, 17 E. Burlington St.; sing along with the Frozen Robins carolers at Burlington Realty, 21 E. Burlington St.; refill that hot chocolate mug (for a third time!) at Let Hair Go, 23 E. Burlington St.; stop in for delicious holiday treats at Aunt Diana’s, 29 E. Burlington St.; stop in to see the new kitchen display and indulge in a holiday wine tasting at Landmark Kitchen Design, 39 E. Burlington St.; and squeeze in another character photo op with the Minions at Athletico Physical Therapy, 51 E. Burlington St. 

Lastly, along East Quincy Street, visit Magos Styling Cafe, 6 E. Quincy St., for holiday music and candy; be wowed by Indiana-based Northern Exposure Chainsaw Carving’s custom wood carvings and hop aboard a pony cart ride at Jeff’s Auto & Truck Repair, 20 E. Quincy St.; savor churros and Mexican hot chocolate at Black Book Studio, 33 E. Quincy St.; swig a hot apple cider (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions) at Quincy Street Distillery, 39 E. Quincy St.; and keep the kids entertained with crafts, music and holiday activities at Riverside’s Parks and Recreation Community Center, 43 E. Quincy St. 

Before heading home, indulge your artistic side by exploring the pop-up holiday shop, art exhibition and open artist studio at the Riverside Arts Center, 32 E. Quincy St., and purchase new works from painters and photographers at Skills Tutoring Center, 39 E. Quincy St. 

“Our community has its own unique set of stores, and it’s a nice way to see what makes Riverside unique and what the village has to offer,” Regan said.