Devan Kromwell of Joliet, while waiting for the parade to start, said she believed she has been coming “my entire life,” although at 28 she precedes it by just a few years.
Her mother, Diane Neumann of Joliet, confirmed that she brought Kromwell to the event when she was still a baby.
“I just like coming out,” Neumann said. “It’s a family thing to do.”
The Light up the Holidays Festival and Parade has grown over the years, adding a Christmas market, artificial ice rink and, this year, a kiddie ferris wheel.
The event continues to attract people for some of the same reasons it always did.
“The family,” Jeremiah Perez of Joliet said when asked what brought him out for his first visit to the event. “We’ve got some siblings here visiting. We’re showing them a nice time.”
“My wife,” said Kelcey Washington of Joliet when asked why he attended while watching over his two young children at the skating rink. “My daughter loves it. My son keeps falling, so he wanted to get out.”
“My mother’s visiting from New York,” said Vincent Bove of Plainfield while he and his family were at the North Pole Christmas Market in the Renaissance Center.
Ron Augustyniak of Chicago was with his daughter, Amy Waszczyk of Shorewood, to see his granddaughter march in the parade with the Joliet West High School marching band.
Waszczyk said she has been in the parade for many years and was excited to be a spectator this year.
“It will be fun to watch my kid come down the street,” she said, bundled up, as the temperature sunk to 33 degrees at parade time. “We’ve got our blankets and all that.”
The event includes the lighting of the city Christmas tree.
Mayor Terry D’Arcy presided over the lighting, while Alexander Bray, a second grader at Lynne Thigpen Elementary School, pulled the switch that lit the tree.
Before the tree was lit, Joliet City Center Partnership Executive Director Priscilla Cordero handed out plaques to three members of the committee that organized the first Light up the Holidays Festival and Parade. The recipients included Tom Mahalik, a former executive director of CCP.
“Tom Mahalik saw this in Arizona 25 years ago and brought it to Joliet,” Cordero said.
Cordero apologized to the crowd for reading off the long list of sponsors for the event, starting with chief sponsor University of St. Francis.
But, she added, “the reason we are able to do this and the reason all the activities are free is because of our amazing sponsors.”