By Chris Stach
Riverside's 40th Annual Holiday Stroll will usher in the 2014 season on Friday, Dec. 5, and a multitude of festivities will continue until 9 p.m. Spreading from downtown Riverside to Harlem Avenue, there will be so many things to see and do that it might be impossible to see and do them all. But it's worth a try!
The customary arrival of Santa Claus by fire engine will be at Centennial Park, between 5:30 and 5:45 p.m., signaling the traditional tree-lighting ceremony shortly thereafter.
Local school students will be on hand to help Santa light the tree, and also the water tower, which will bathed in green and red lights at night throughout the holiday season. All the while, the RBHS Madrigal singers will be on hand to sing familiar holiday carols.
Santa's next stop will be at the Riverside Bank, at 17 E. Burlington St. Yes, it's photo-op time for him, while, in the background, the West Suburban Symphony Players conduct festive seasonal music.
For an unusual alternative to that jolly old fellow in red, take the free courtesy trolley over to the Comic Collector at 3246 Harlem Ave. between 6 and 8 p.m. to see "Santa Sven," as in Svengoolie. Just like last year, he'll be vaiting, I mean waiting, to see you. The trolley will be picking up and dropping off people, both ways, all along Burlington Street in downtown Riverside.
Held inside St. Mary's Parish Hall will be a Mingle Jingle Craft Fair, offering visitors many ideas for Christmas gifts.
That indomitable bastion of local history, the Riverside Historical Museum, plans to warmly welcome all visitors from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Over at the Riverside Garage, 18 East Ave., miniature pony rides, sleigh rides and a petting zoo will all be available to enjoy. Also returning this year is the famous train display, sponsored by the garage.
Ice sculpting will again be an attraction at the train station, 90 Bloomingbank Road, in the east outdoor pavilion. Let the chips fall where they may! But, hopefully, not on your face, while you are enjoying the face painting also happening here.
Also of an artistic nature is the stained-glass construction demonstration, continuing all evening, at Colorsmith, 8 E. Quincy St. Stained-glass making is an intricate process, so come on over and see how it is done.
Back at the train station, ex-Chicago Bears player Doug Buffone will happily sign autographs, chat and have his picture taken with fans. Johnny Lattner's Heisman Trophy will also be on display.
There will be a silent auction of Chicago Bears and other sports memorabilia, and Blackhawks, White Sox, Cubs and Bears jerseys will be available for purchase.
The Suzuki Strings will impress and delight with their program of music at the Riverside Township Hall, 27 Riverside Road. Once again, Mr. D's Magic Show at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. will have you asking, "How'd he I that?"
This year, District 96's choir will sing marvelous melodies from 6 to 7 p.m. Various businesses and organizations will also have booths set up here at the hall.
The Fiore Bakery, on 25 Forest Ave., will have nothing less than harpist Amy Lee expertly plucking out holiday tunes on the strings.
Tommy Twister will return to show his amazing juggling and magical skills from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Burlington Realty, 21 E. Burlington St..
Meanwhile, Riverside Foods, at 48 E. Burlington St., will be the departure point for horse-drawn rides. They'll also will have a tent set up with fascinating food sampling going on inside.
The Riverside Presbyterian Church Bell Choir will be ringing in the season at the First American Bank, at 15 Riverside Road.
And, as always, Aunt Diana's Old Fashioned Fudge Shop, 29 E. Burlington St., will have for sale holiday treats of many toothsome kinds. For something with fashionable flair, the Arcade Jewelers, 51 E. Burlington St., will be demonstrating how to make fabulous jewelry that will enchant any wearer — or even any giver!
Holiday Stroll Event Coordinator Brian Brennan fervently hopes that everyone "will support our community's businesses, who will both surprise and delight you with their festive offerings."
For more information on the Holiday Stroll, please visit www.RiversideChamberofCommerce.com or call Brian Brennan at 708-447-2946.