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Yorkville into the seasonal spirit with Holiday Under the Stars

SantClaus gets high-five from Zachary Wright Yorkville after he arrived annual Holiday Under Stars event downtown Yorkville by fire truck

Santa Claus gets a high-five from Zachary Wright of Yorkville after he arrived at the annual Holiday Under the Stars event in downtown Yorkville by fire truck escort on Friday, November 16, 2012. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 19, 2012 11:37AM

Hundreds of holiday-spirited residents were on hand Friday night at Yorkville’s Riverfront Park to greet Santa Claus, who rode in to town, not in a red sleigh with reindeer, but in a red Bristol-Kendall fire engine, sirens blaring, for the city’s annual Holiday Under the Stars celebration.

“I think it’s really exciting!” said Greg Millen, general manager of Heritage Home Décor and Design, who with wife Rosie joined the crowd watching Santa and Mayor Gary Golinski light the Yorkville Christmas tree. The Yorkville High School Brass Band played in the background and everyone cheered.

“I like that we’re still focused on the downtown,” Millen, who helped start the original holiday program more than a decade ago, added. “That’s where the roots are, the mix of restaurants and entertainment.”

When the lighting that marked the beginning of the holiday season was over, many headed to the booths, where vendors were selling ornaments, food and discounted tickets for the Raging Waves Water Park. Others skated on the temporary rink set up in the park’s parking lot, visited the Party Pad for hot cocoa and hot dogs or stopped at the Yorkville Chamber of Commerce’s Leads I group’s table for free s’mores.

“This is our fourth year doing this,” said Leads I member Beth Pierre of Nelson Multimedia, who was putting marshmallows on skewers. “Why do we do it? Look at the kids! It’s fun. Each year the lines get longer and the smiles get bigger.”

Although this year, the Leads I volunteers had brought more chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers than previous years, they still ran out of s’mores ingredients before the evening was over.

Despite the long lines waiting to see him, Santa didn’t leave his post in River City Roasters coffee shop until he had heard the last child’s Christmas wish and the last photo was taken.

“We love being Santa’s house,” said Erich Goepel, owner of River City Roasters, as he watched the lines of children and their parents streaming through his cafe. “We love it! It’s festive. The kids are a lot of fun.” Pointing to the miniature red reindeer antler hat he was wearing, he added, “And we get to wear cool things on our heads.”

Yorkville resident Heather Cirner, who waited in line to see Santa with son Max, 10 months, daughter Lauren, 14, and son Nicholas, 9, said this was her second time attending Yorkville’s holiday program.

“We came down for the program last year and had a great time. This year, there’s a really great turnout and more stuff. We are really excited about the fireworks!”

The fireworks, an addition to the holiday program, provided a grande finale courtesy of Boombah, Inc. Using the newly created island in the Fox River as a launching pad, Bristol Kendall firemen and city staff sent scores of exploding rockets skyward.

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