Photo by Dermot Connolly
Chicago Ridge's Christmas tree shone brightly after the lights were turned on Sunday night.
By Dermot Connolly
Hundreds of people braved cold and drizzling weather for the 4th Annual Chicago Ridge Tree-Lighting ceremony held Sunday evening outside Village Hall, 10455 S. Ridgeland Ave.
“I am happy to see such a big crowd. Everybody is here,” said Mayor Chuck Tokar, ticking off all the community groups involved in the event, from Boys Scout Troop 665 and Girl Scout Troop 55201, to the Chicago Ridge Lions Club and the Chicago Ridge Library.
The mayor even put a positive spin on the weather.
“It was worse last year,” he pointed out.
Indeed, heavy snow then forced all of the festivities inside. This time around, people were able to enjoy the iceless skating rink outside. There was also a long line all night for newest attraction, a horse-drawn sleigh that took groups on trips around the village.
Of course, the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus on a fire truck complete with sirens was the highlight of the evening for many children. In the lead-up to that, holiday music was provided by bands from Richards High School and Finley Junior High School.
The couple waved to the crowd and hugged a few kids who ran up to them before heading in to meet with the children who lined up for tell them their wishlists and get their pictures taken.
Perhaps due to the chilly weather, the line for the hot chocolate downstairs was about as long as the one to see Santa upstairs.
Sebastian Rodriguez, 8, and his brother, Lucas, 6, were among the first in line to meet Santa.
“I am very happy that the village does this. It is a great event and giving the children a chance to meet Santa and keeps their innocense about the holiday,” said their mother, Gilda Rodriguez.
“It was fun. I told him I wanted $100,” said Sebastian.
Besides seeing Santa, there was plenty for families at the Sunday night festivites. The library staff sponsored a craft table, where children could make holiday decorations, and face-painting was a popular activity as well. Just as in previous years, families could also get their photos taken with “Winter Wonderland Photoscapes.”
Another new attraction this year was a holiday market, with vendors selling all sorts of gift options, including ornaments, jewelry, fragrances and scarves.
Besides all the gift-buying, donations of toys were also being collected for the 5th Annual Officer Steven Smith Toy Drive.
Singing the National Anthem was Maria Koutsis.
“Events like this are important because they bring the community together,” said Village Clerk Barbara Harrison.