Brookfield resident Rich Nowinski’s truck. | Jackie Pisano/Contributor

Though Brookfield kicks off each December with its annual Holiday Celebration throughout the village’s business districts, for the past six years a small group of residents has decided to make the yuletide bright with a Christmas caravan of cars, trekking across town to spread seasonal smiles.

According to Izzi Markus, Brookfield resident and organizer of the event dubbed the “Christmas Car Cruise,” the quirky event was the brainchild of Alana Waters-Piper, who simply wanted to start a new, one-of-a-kind holiday tradition for other like-minded Christmas fanatics in 2017. 

“Her goal was to make a fun, neighborhood holiday event,” said Markus, who joined in the fun for year two in 2018. “It started with around 10 cars.”

While Piper moved out of Brookfield a few years ago, Markus said that interest in keeping the program alive stayed and grew into a more highly anticipated event, especially during the height of the pandemic.

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“In 2020, [the parade] was an absolutely magical experience, because there were so many kids that came running to their windows and people standing on street corners waiting for the parade to pass by,” she said. “That’s the year a lot of people began finding out about it.”

That year, those involved in the parade created an official route, sharing it to Facebook so that residents would know which blocks the cars would pass through.

This year, the sixth annual cruise set off from the western portion of Broadway Avenue at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 11, first heading southeast through the village, then heading west and back up north, ensuring that the major central thoroughfares in both north and south Brookfield were covered. 

“With Ogden, the train tracks and having different high schools, sometimes the whole area feels sort of segmented, so I think it’s just a lot of fun to have everyone come together and have a little bit of holiday cheer, and make people laugh and smile,” Markus said. 

The parade is not sponsored by any local group or business; rather, it’s just a group of Brookfielders looking to have fun. Anyone who hears about the parade either via word of mouth or Facebook is welcome to participate. This year, close to 20 cars and trucks made up the joyful group.

With car radios tuned into Christmas music and speakers cranked up all the way, the group made its way across Brookfield in vehicles decorated with themes ranging from Marine Corps/Toys For Tots, the Grinch and Gremlins, Buddy the Elf, inflatable Christmas dragons, classic Christmas trees and light-up lawn Santa Clauses. 

Longtime Brookfield resident Larry Baron, who has joined in the parade each year since its inception, decorated his old-fashioned truck with a real Christmas tree, a light-up lawn nativity scene and a custom model train track, complete with a replica of the vintage Grossdale train station. 

“I like doing this just so I can put a little Christmas tree in the back of my truck,” he said. “That’s how it started, then it got a little out of hand. Every year, the bed of the truck is a little different.”

Brookfield Rich Nowinski, who has always enjoyed the parade with his family and neighbors, participated for the first time this year. With the help of his family and a neighbor, he decked out his truck with a light-up lawn Santa, a Christmas tree, large color incandescent bulbs and gift boxes. 

“We watched it for years past and said, ‘We should do that one year!,’” he said, “and finally, we decided to do it.”

Markus says what started as a unique little idea has turned into something memorable and fun for all of Brookfield. 

“The holidays can be stressful, and we all need more things to smile about,” she added.