For some people, a Friday night in December means staying inside and relaxing with a hot beverage.
But for many Belvidere residents, a cold, December Friday night is a good reason to get out the house and celebrate Christmas a few weeks early.
Belvidere’s Hometown Christmas makes its way to downtown Belvidere on Friday, Dec. 3. A year after the town hosted a smaller, modified version of the event because of COVID-19, event organizers are ready to welcome Hometown Christmas in its original form.
“This event is really just a fun way to celebrate the holidays in Belvidere,” says Lee Revels, director of marketing and member support for the Belvidere Area Chamber of Commerce.
There’s plenty to see and do at the annual event, starting with the Belvidere Park District’s Light Parade, starting at 5:30 p.m.
“Parades are great, but nighttime parades are awesome,” says Gina DelRose, community development planner for the City of Belvidere. “You’re able to light up the floats, which has an added layer of coolness.”
As you walk around downtown, be sure to check out the painted windows at some of the downtown businesses. Community members show off some of their artwork while spreading some holiday cheer. If you’re interested in doing some shopping, head over to Mrs. Claus’ Market, happening in the Community Building, 111 W. First St.
“There’ll be 20 vendors set up in the basement,” Revels says. “There are plenty of handcrafted Christmas items and gift ideas.”
The Belvidere Fire Station, 123 S. State St., has hot chocolate starting at 5 p.m. along with Badges with Books, which provides free books to kids.
What’s Christmas without a meeting with Santa? Take your kids to the Belvidere Family YMCA, 220 W. Locust St., where they can sit on Santa’s lap and share their Christmas list. Stick around for crafts and a carnival. To limit wait times, time slots for pictures can be reserved ahead of time. Follow the Belvidere Hometown Christmas Facebook page for more information.
For those feeling a little adventurous, head over to Riverside Ice Arena, 365 W. Locust St., and enjoy some ice skating.
“We added ice skating last year and that’ll come back this year,” Revels says. “There was an open skate at the ice rink last year and it brought a lot of people down there who maybe didn’t know an ice rink was there.”
Warm up inside the Boone County Museum of History, 314 S. State St., and enjoy live music, vendors and some of the latest museum exhibits.
Just outside the museum is the Hub Plaza, where a tree lighting takes place right after the parade, followed by a puppet show.
There’ll also be food trucks available throughout downtown.
One of the good things about this event, Revels says, is many of the activities are free.
“Photos with Santa are free, the parade is free and the tree lighting is free,” she says. “It’s affordable and fun for the whole family, and it’s a tradition that they don’t have to give up for one reason or another.”
Revels says this magical event brings the community closer together during the holiday season.
“The local businesses come together to help plan this event, and it gives people in the community something to be proud of here in Belvidere,” she says. “It’s also becoming a family tradition. People remember going to this event as a kid and now, they’re bringing their families.” ❚