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FOLEPI, Santa Parade lead off a weekend of holiday activities

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After the tummy settles a bit from Thursday's feast, there is much to do this weekend in the Peoria area — even if Black Friday isn't your thing.

The area's holiday themed festivities actually begin Thursday evening when the City of East Peoria opens FOLEPI's Winter Wonderland, the drive-through extravaganza in Fon du Lac Park at the top of Springfield Road hill.

Winter Wonderland features the lighted floats that participated in the Parade of Lights last weekend as well as many electric displays, including the leaping reindeer and the ski jumper, that dot the route through the park. That route has changed as it no longer goes downhill into VFW Park because of construction, but the city said none of the displays have changed.

T he cost to drive through is $10 per vehicle (except buses). Winter Wonderland will be open 5 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 5 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 31.

On Friday, the oldest continuously running Santa Claus Parade in the United States steps off in downtown Peoria at 10:15 a.m.

The 126th Annual Santa Claus Parade will feature 88 units of costumed characters, novelty walking units, horse units and decorated floats, with Santa and Mrs. Claus greeting children at the end of the parade. The parade route is Monroe Street from Wayne to Main, then takes Main Street to Jefferson, passing the judges' stand along the way. The route then goes Jefferson to Liberty, Libert y to Adams and Adams to Hamilton Boulevard.

Awards will be presented to the top two Best Commercial Floats, top two Best Non-Profit Floats, Best Novelty Entry Elf Award, Best New Entry, Best Religious Entry and Best Overall Unit, which was won by South Side Bank last year.

Awards also are presented to the bands that participate in the parade.

Once again, Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis has partnered with the Salvation Army and Midwest Food Bank to organize a community-wide food drive and coat collection during the parade.

"When you come downtown to enjoy the parade, please bring gently used coats and canned goods to donate to those in need. Volunteers from the Salvation Army and the Peoria County Hawks Semi-Pro Football Team will be joining Mayor Ardis and city elected officials in walking at the front of the parade to collect the canned goods and coats," the city said in a news release.

On Friday night the 22nd Annual Yule Like Peoria stroll through downtown Peoria will begin with the lighting celebration in the Courthouse Plaza at 6 p.m., followed by an ice carving contest. Santa and Mrs. Claus are scheduled to turn on the plaza lights at 6:15 p.m.

Sponsored by Peoria Area Community Events, Yule Like Peoria allows walkers to visit 24 commercial buildings in downtown that have decorated for the holidays and planned special entertainment for the event, which goes until 9 p.m. Refreshments will be served in some buildings and walkers will be invited to decorate the street lights throughout downtown.

The City Link Trolley will provide service in downtown throughout the event.

Performers at the various locations include the Richwoods High School Madrigals (Janssen Building), the Pride of Peoria Barbershop Chorus (Marriott Pere Marquette), Morton Civic Chorus (River Financial Plaza), Peoria Area Accordion Club (Twin Towers Plaza) the Peoria Ballet Nutcracker dancers (Becker Building) and other vocal entertainment.

The event is free.

A map showing the buildings participating in Yule Like Peoria and the planned entertainment can be found at www.peoriaevents.com.

On Saturday, civic leaders throughout the region are urging shoppers to support their small businesses during the Annual Small Business Saturday that has become a tradition after Black Friday and before Cyber Monday.

Small Business Saturday is a national initiative, now in its fourth year, aimed at getting consumers to spend locally and support the small businesses in their community for at least one day during the holiday shopping season.

The Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce is leading the regional collaboration, said Rachel O'Connell, communications and marketing manager for the chamber. She said there are many regional partners promoting the initiative, including area Chambers of Commerce, economic development organizations, cities, and counties. "This is the third year for our coordinated regional effort. Our goal is to make Small Business Saturday a success in our market as well as nationwide. This is truly a regional collaboration," O'Connell said.

Peoria Mayor Ardis encouraged residents throughout Greater Peoria to support Small Business Saturday. "Small businesses provide investment in a community. For every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, more than half of it returns to the economy through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures. In fact, 98 percent of all businesses in the Greater Peoria area are considered small business. It's our responsibility to support them," Ardis said.

On Saturday night, Second City returns to Illinois Central College with its "Ntucracking Holiday Revue" at 7:30 p.m. in the ICC Performing Arts Center in East Peoria. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased onlin at www.ArtsAtICC.com. The show is rated "R."

On Sunday, more holiday-themed entertainment is available in the region.

At 3 p.m. Peoria actor Doug Day will present Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" at the GAR Hall, 416 Hamilton Boulevard in Peoria. The event includes Christmas High Tea, music, and the performance by Day, an actor and theater director.

The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children, to raise funds for an elevator at the GAR Hall. The Central Illinois Landmarks Foundation is a sponsor of the event.

Sunday marks the start of the holiday film series at the Peoria Riverfront Museum's giant screen movie theatre.

First up will be "Miracle on 34th St." at 4 and 6 p.m. Other films in the series will include "White Christmas," "It's A Wonderful Life," "A Christmas Story," and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

For the full schedule of films and show times visit www.peoriariverfrontmuseum.org.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).