Since 1974, the Riverside Holiday Stroll has marked the official start of the holiday season in town, spreading yuletide cheer through open houses, seasonal activities and neighborly camaraderie.
So to mark 45 years of beloved seasonal traditions, Riverside's Chamber of Commerce welcomes Riversiders and neighbors of all ages to its business corridors for its 2019 Holiday Stroll on Friday, Dec. 6.
From 5:30 to 9 p.m., the stroll will feature various locations across town, buzzing with holiday crafts, favorite seasonal snacks and refreshments, Christmas carols and, of course, the lighting of Riverside's Christmas tree.
Brian Brennan, a Riverside resident who is now in his 29th year of helping spearhead the stroll, says he is proud once again to help unite all corners of the village for the happy holiday kickoff.
"It's the one event where families, friends and businesses come together to enjoy a festive evening and to interact in our community," he said.
Fellow Riversider and stroll organizer Jason Hinsley agrees with Brennan, saying the stroll is perfect for the village in that it offers something for everyone.
"The stroll is a special night that brings out the best in us all and showcases the unique character of the community," Hinsley said.
The celebration kicks off at 5:30 p.m. with Santa and Mrs. Claus trekking from the North Pole to downtown Riverside's Centennial Park (Longcommon Road and Forest Avenue) to meet and greet with guests.
The jolly couple will be joined by merry cantors from Riverside-Brookfield High School's Madrigals singing troupe and students from District 96 and St. Mary School, setting the mood with beloved Christmas carols as the village hits the switch and illuminates the grand tree.
Immediately following the tree lighting, the Clauses will head on over to Riverside Bank, 17 E. Burlington St., for family photos, while performers from the West Suburban Symphony will entertain the crowds with classic renditions of holiday songs.
Luckily for music lovers, the holiday sounds don't stop at the beginning of the stroll.
Up for hearing Christmas songs on acoustic guitar? Check out Vince Mammoser all evening long at Mollie's Public House, 31 Forest Ave.
Enjoy the sweet voices of local students as Riverside Public Library, 1 Burling Road, welcomes Riverside-Brookfield High School's Chamber Orchestra at 5:30 p.m., while Riverside Township Hall, 27 Riverside Road, fills with the sounds of the Riverside Strings (6 p.m.), the Riverside Children's Theatre Guild (6:30 p.m.) and District 96's fourth- and fifth-grade choirs (7 p.m.).
First American Bank, 15 Riverside Road, is helping ring in the season — literally — with Riverside Presbyterian Church's acaBELLA Ringers from 7 to 8 p.m., and Quincy Street Distillery, 39 E. Quincy St. will showcase keyboardist Bob Opal, who will encourage caroling.
Students from the Liz Berg School of Music showcasing their sounds at Salon Elia, 5 Longcommon Road, and live holiday music can be caught throughout the stroll at LaBarra Ristorante, 2 E. Burlington Road. While inside the restaurant, support Girl Scout Troop 40054 as they sell hot chocolate, baked goods and homemade hair accessories.
Do you like eating and decorating? Stop in to Riverside Parks and Recreation, 10 Pine Ave., where you can make your own Christmas tree treats.
Riverside Masonic Lodge, 40 Forest Ave., will be another location with tons going on at its open house, including hot chocolate and snacks, a special dance performance from Beyond Words Dance Company (6:30 to 7 p.m.) and juggling performances (7 to 8:45 p.m.). While visiting, make sure to check out the model train display at the entrance and get the kids in line for face painting.
While on Forest Avenue, pop in to Mollie's Public House for hot chocolate, cookies and candy and La Estancia, 25 Forest Ave., for a south-of-the-border seasonal sampling of tamales and warm Mexican fruit punch.
Model train lovers are in luck. As always, Riverside Garage, 18 East Ave., will showcase its famous train display. Afterwards, get close with some four-legged friends in the petting zoo, hop atop a pony for a quick ride, and support Girl Scout Troop 50021 by purchasing fun holiday hats and gloves. North Riverside's Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers will also be there with a giveaway booth, so spin the wheel for a chance to win fun prizes.
Speaking of trains, Riverside's historic train station will be home to the Riverside Junior Woman's Charity, which will be soliciting donations, presenting holiday movies and offering food and adult beverages. From 6 to 7 p.m., stick around for a holiday music show from the Skai Academy of Performing Arts.
Nearby, stop in the library for holiday wooden ornament decorating and then head next door to Riverside Township Hall for Mr. D's Magic Show (7 p.m. and 8 p.m.), cookies, coloring and holiday crafts.
For an old-fashioned activity along Quincy Street, catch a ride on the four-seat pony cart before or after visiting the refreshment open houses at Magos Styling Cave, 6 E. Quincy St.; Colorsmith Stained Glass Studio, 8 E. Quincy St.; Friend Investment Group Inc., 12 E. Quincy St.; Metal Mites, 36 E. Quincy St.; Skills Tutoring Center, 39 E. Quincy St.; and Quincy Street Distillery, 39 E. Quincy St.
And, as if Quincy didn't have enough to offer, satisfy your art fix by walking into the Riverside Arts Center, 32 E. Quincy St., for an arts and crafts sale and winter art exhibit.
Say "hello" at the friendly businesses along Burlington Street hosting light refreshments, including Landmark Kitchen Design, 39 E. Burlington St.; Sawmilly Sandwich Shoppe, 35 E. Burlington St.; Chew Restaurant, 33 E. Burlington St.; Salon D'Amore, 52 E. Burlington St.; Riverside Foods, 48 E. Burlington St.; Shamrock Garden Florist, 18 E. Burlington St.; and Gary Potamianos DDS, 16 E. Burlington St. Also welcoming visitors to check out their businesses with warm drinks and light bites include Ridgeland Associates Inc., 1 Riverside Road, and Riverside Plumbing, Heating and Cooling, 3 Longcommon Road.
St. Mary Parish, 97 Herrick Road, promises to help keep you warm with its fire pit and s'mores. Be sure to join in for group Christmas caroling and stock up on all your December baked goods at the cookie walk, sponsored by the parish school's eighth-grade class.
Don't miss Holiday Stroll favorite Tommy Twister, local balloon artists making his unique pieces at Burlington Realty, 21 E. Burlington Road, and make sure the kids don't let go of the chance to take a photo with Elsa from Disney's "Frozen" at Athletico, 51 E. Burlington Road. Afterward — or before — pop in to Let Hair Go, 23 E. Burlington Road for character face painting.
Back for another year of haunted holiday fun is Rich Koz of "Svengoolie" fame at Comic Collector, 3346 S. Harlem Ave. Visitors can catch van rides to Harlem Avenue in the village parking lot across from St. Mary's between 6 and 8 p.m.
Whether on foot or via horse-drawn sleigh rides starting at Riverside Foods, the nearly half-century-old holiday celebration promises an enjoyable night for Riverside lovers young and old.