The 29th annual Christmas on the River celebration kicks off in Chester this weekend, with three days of events and activities starting Friday.
The celebration will begin with the Grand Illumination at the Gazebo Park on 6 p.m. on Friday, as Chester Mayor Tom Page will light the park lights and Santa's Village (at Opdyke and State streets) simultaneously.
The Chester High School Band, under the direction of Steve Colonel, will entertain with Christmas music.
After the lights are on and the speeches are made, appreciate a live nativity scene at Santa's Village courtesy of First Baptist Church. Carriage rides (12-passenger limit) will be available from 6 to 9 p.m. and will cost $3-$5 (under 4 free) or $14 for a family of two adults and two children.
As is tradition, the driveway of Chester's historic Evergreen Cemetery will be lined with Signs of Remembrance. The signs offer families and friends the opportunity to remember their deceased loved ones and are given in their remembrance.
The signs are $10 each for a renewal and $20 each for a new one. For more information contact Norma Baughman at (618) 615-7892.
Saturday will feature the Holiday Lighted parade starting at 7 p.m. starting at Chester High School and ending at Santa's Village. Before that, Santa Claus will make his traditional arrival at the riverfront via Mississippi River barge.
Santa is scheduled to arrive at 10 a.m. and the Chester High School Marching Yellow Jackets will perform the songs of the season. Afterward, everyone is invited to the Chester Boat Club for a visit with Santa and refreshments.
• St. Mary's Parent Teacher Organization will host a fried chicken dinner at the Knights of Columbus Hall from 4:30-7:30 p.m. Price is $10 a plate and includes two sides and dessert. Carryouts are available.
• The Craft and Vendor Sale will take place at the American Legion and the Randolph County Courthouse on Friday evening (5-9 p.m.), Saturday (9 a.m.-5 p.m.) and Sunday (10 a.m.-3 p.m.). There a few vendors spaces available at the Legion (call (618) 826-1430 to reserve). They are $20 each for the weekend.
• "I Remember: Christmastime in Chester" will be held Friday (10 a.m.-5 p.m.) and Saturday (8 a.m.- 1 p.m.) at the Chester Public Library.
• New business "Stylin' on State" (617 State St.) will celebrate its grand opening throughout the weekend (Friday 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday Noon-3 p.m.).
• Other open houses will be held at Coffey's Creations, 1207 Swanwick St. (Friday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-5 p.m.); Magnolia Memories, 1220 Swanwick St. (Friday 8 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.); The Studio Boutique, 1218 Swanwick St. (Friday 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday & Sunday 10 a.m.-2 p.m.); Vintage Market, 1208 Swanwick St. (Saturday 10 a.m.-3 p.m.) and Memorial Hospital Gift Shop, 1900 State St. (Friday 11 a.m.-2 p.m.).
• St. Mary's Catholic School will sponsor a Christmas Trivia Night and Ugly Sweater Contest in the school gym (7 p.m., doors open at 6 p.m.). Cost is $20 per person and adults only. Reserve your table at the school office at (618) 826-3120, or contact Danielle at (618) 559-0555 or dpowell43011Wgmail.com. Bring your own food and drinks.
• The Women of the Moose are having a vendor fair and food sale at the Chester Moose Lodge at on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
• Peace Lutheran Church of Chester will have an open house from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and will be decorated for Christmas. The altar area will feature a selection of Christmas trees and one of the trees will be a "Thankful Tree." Guests are invited to write a message expressing what they are thankful for and add it to the tree. Instead of their usual display of nativities, the Ladies of Peace will have a Christmas Village display that they will add to over the next five years. Another soup tasting event will be provided again this year. A selection of soups will be offered for the "tasting" as well as sandwiches, cookies and a drink. A freewill offering will be accepted.
• The St. John PTL will host its 45th annual Christmas Bazaar from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the St. John's Parish Hall. Hot lunch will be served starting at 10:30 a.m. The menu will consist of a traditional luncheon of soups and sandwiches. Tickets are $5-$7; under 5 is free.
• The Stone Cottage Christmas Open House, at Taylor and Chestnut streets, will be held from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Renovations on the cottage began the summer of 2010 with the objective to create a small museum and a memorial walkway at this circa 1850 building.
• The Randolph County Museum & Archives will have an open house on Saturday (10 a.m.-3 p.m.) and Sunday (noon-3 p.m.).
• Friends of the Library will sponsor a Book Signing and Pharaoh as "Santa Paws," on Saturday, Dec. 2 (10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.) at the Chester Public Library, 733 State St.
• Friends of the Cohen Home will again this year host a Quilt Tour at the Cohen Memorial Home from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Free, but a freewill offering will be taken. All money will be donated to the Chester Area Christian Food Pantry.
• The Holiday Home Tour, sponsored by St. Mary's School, is 2:30-6:30 p.m. Tickets: $10, but them from St. Mary's School through Allison Blechle at (618) 615-1548 or at one of the homes the day of the tour. Homes are: Tony West & Nicole Jany, 934 William St.; James & Jennifer Knott, 4704 Kane Hill Road; Everett & Judy Wunderlich, 601 E. Buena Vista St.; and Steve & Sue Colonel, 1251 Cole Place Road.
• The "Jingle Bell Fun Run" will be held at 6 p.m. before the parade. The 1-mile fun run will start in front of Chester City Hall. New this year is a quarter-mile Santa Shuffle and costumes are encouraged. Packet pickup and same day registration at Chester City Hall. Fee is $18 for the Fun Run and $13 for Santa Shuffle. Proceeds support Chester's Christmas on the River. Registration forms are at Chester City Hall, at www.chesterill.com, or contact Brandy Maes by phone/text at (618) 615-7020 or email at email@example.com.
• Then bundle up to see the magical lights of Christmas! The Holiday Lighted Parade will step off at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, from Chester High School. It will go through town, ending at Santa's Village, Opdyke and State streets. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be the grand finale of the parade, then visit with Santa and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate from 6-9 p.m. at Santa's Village courtesy of First Presbyterian Church. Register for the parade at www.chesterill.com; contact Brandy Maes by phone/text at (618) 615-7020; email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Recreation Office, (618) 826-1430.
The Manor at Craig Farms will be offering a sweet ending to the festivities with Gingerbread House making from 1 to 3 p.m. Free for children up to age 12 and projects must be started by 2:30 p.m.
• The raising of the official bicentennial flag will be done at 1:15 p.m. Sunday and Randolph County commissioners will present a proclamation honoring the Illinois state bicentennial at 1:30 p.m. The first 50 visitors signing in will receive an official bicentennial lapel pin free. More pins will be available for sale at $5 each.
Visit www.chesterill.com or Facebook at Christmas on the River@christmasinrivercity for more events going on in Chester and latest up to date information.