North Riverside Mayor Joseph Mengoni and Santa Claus preside over the tree lighting at the 2021 WinterFest. | Bob Uphues/Editor

North Riverside, the village known for host entertaining and engaging events for the whole family, is ready to ring in the holiday season with year two of its combination tree lighting/holiday party extravaganza. 

The North Riverside WinterFest returns to town on Wednesday, Dec. 7, promising an evening filled with carols, hot cocoa, Christmas cheer and the neighborly camaraderie on which villagers pride themselves. 

Bumble, the abominable snowman, rides top a North Riverside fire engine during the 2021 WinterFest. | Bob Uphues/Editor

From 6 to 8 p.m., visit the front lawn of the North Riverside Village Commons, 2401 Desplaines Ave., for the sixth annual lighting of North Riverside’s holiday tree and second year of the town’s winter fest celebration. 

Nicole Collier, recreation coordinator with North Riverside’s Parks and Recreation Department, says the tree lighting and WinterFest has turned into a highly anticipated tradition and the perfect way to get in the holiday spirit before the hustle and bustle of the season sneaks in.

“The amount of people who come out each year for a two-hour event to kick off their holiday season is just great,” she said. “There’s just something about the holiday season that makes everybody feel so good inside. It’s a free event, and it’s our way of giving back — both to North Riverside residents and those from out of town.”

Visitors are encouraged to attend as early as possible, as Santa and village officials will be ready to flip the switch and light up the tree at 6:30 p.m.

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Throughout the evening, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be around for photo ops and mingling with guests. This year, kids can write out their own letters to Santa before dropping them off at the special mailbox located at the Village Commons.

The fun for kids doesn’t stop there — in true North Riverside crafting fashion, WinterFest will include a reindeer food station, where kids can create bags of reindeer food (oats and glitter) to leave out on their front lawns on Christmas Eve to keep the guides of Santa’s sleigh well-fed. Another table will also be set up with small holiday craft kits in take-home bags.

Bob Uphues/Editor

Speaking of Santa’s reindeer, two of his beloved Christmas guides will be onsite at the Reindeer Petting Zoo. Guests can also enjoy comfortable “sleigh rides” in front of Village Commons — this year, aboard a festively decorated trolley led by two trusty horses.

Leading guests in song with an old-fashioned holiday vibe will be carolers from the American Caroling Company, featuring a trio of singers dressed in Victorian costumes who will sing everyone’s favorite tunes of the season.

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To keep warm, visitors can gather around two outdoor fire pits and make s’mores and enjoy a warm cup of cocoa from the hot chocolate station.

New to this year’s event will be a vendor selling pre-bagged roasted cashews and almonds and a face-painting artist to give your kids the holiday makeup they’ve always wanted.  

Winter home decorating competition

Back this year for North Riverside residents is the village’s Winter Home Decorating Competition.

On Friday, Dec. 16, folks from the Parks and Recreation Department will drive through town, ranking residents’ home decor entries and offering prizes to the top winners of each category: Classiest House, Griswold (or over-the-top, “Christmas Vacation”-style) House and Best Christmas Theme.

The decorating contest is free and open to all North Riverside residents, and those interested in participating must call the Parks and Recreation Department at 708-442-5515 by Dec. 15 with their family name and home address.