ST. CHARLES – For Katie and David Ryan, it's tradition to usher in the Christmas season by attending the Holiday Homecoming event in downtown St. Charles.
The St. Charles couple continued the tradition by bringing their two young children to downtown St. Charles on Saturday for the festivities, which proved to be even more uplifting this year in the face of the pandemic.
"We do it every year," Katie Ryan said. "It's a tradition that we didn't want to stop this year."
The pandemic changed the look of this year's event. Organizers had to drop the Electric Christmas Parade and the traditional lighting of the lights ceremony became a virtual event that is available to watch on St. Charles Business Alliance's YouTube channel or on its Facebook page, facebook.com/STCalliance.
However, the event still featured plenty of holiday cheer, including the appearance of a socially distanced and masked Santa Claus. And while though the couple's two children – Clara, 7, and Michael, 5, weren't able to sit on Santa's lap, they were able to have their picture taken with him.
They also spent the day looking at the more than 40 gaily decorated trees that were put up by local businesses, organizations and individuals around 1st Street and the riverwalk in downtown St. Charles as part of the Holiday Tree Trail. The trees will stay up through Jan. 1.
The festivities, which also featured ice carving, helped get the couple and their children into the holiday spirit.
"I think St. Charles is trying to do the best that it can to make everyone still feel in the holiday spirit," Katie Ryan said.
Santa will be at his house set up on the East Plaza in downtown St. Charles from 1 to 4 p.m. every Saturday through Dec. 19. There is a mailbox set up for children to leave their letters.
St. Charles Business Alliance Events Manager Amy Curione was happy with how the event went.
"The community came out and is enjoying the trees," she said. "We've had a great turnout for Santa. Everybody's staying safe and is socially distanced. There's lots of letters going into the mailbox."
She also was amazed at the creativity shown by those participating in the Holiday Tree Trail.
"The participants went above and beyond and we are absolutely thrilled," Curione said. "We could not be happier with the decorations."
Saturday also was Small Business Saturday and those going to Kimmer's Ice Cream shop in downtown St. Charles to get a delectable treat might have been surprised to see a Tyrannosaurus Rex floral installation set up in front of the shop.
The creative mind behind the floral installation is Cat Battista, a floral and event designer. She owns Cat Battista Company in St. Charles.
Her 4-year-old son was the inspiration behind the piece.
"He's a huge dinosaur fan," Battista said. "He was like, 'You need to do a T-Rex, mom.' ''
She was glad to add to the day's festivities.
"I think it's been a really hard year for everyone and my business is all about bringing people joy and celebrating life," Battista said. "I enjoy creating something that makes people stop and smile and chuckle a little bit."