Santa and Mrs. Claus stayed indoors last year on the day after Thanksgiving, as did everyone else involved in the annual Santa Parade through downtown Belleville. Rain came in buckets and canceled the event.
Not this year, say organizers, with their fingers crossed.
“We could put it on with a little light mist, but pouring down rain doesn’t work too well,” said Charles Mayhew, secretary of the Optimist Club in Belleville. Mayhew, lieutenant governor of Zone 6 for the Optimist Club, is also one of the parade marshals who will get all the floats, bands and people lined up and ready for the 10 a.m. parade Friday.
It follows the traditional route: starting at 17th and West Main streets, heading east down Main Street to Union United Methodist Church at Forest Avenue.
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Mayhew said there are about 80 entries this year, but most of the bands and dance groups familiar to parade watchers are returning.
“I think those are the crowd favorites,” he said.
In downtown Belleville alone on Friday, you can see Santa at his seasonal home on the Public Square, take horse-drawn trolley ride, sing some carols, shop an international outdoor holiday market, admire gingerbread creations and watch the lighting of the fountain.
Throughout the bi-state area, Santa sightings start in earnest Friday, as do parades, light displays and annual holiday happenings. See this list of what’s to do this holiday weekend.
▪ Ameren Thanksgiving Day Parade — 8:45 a.m. Thursday at Seventh and Market streets in downtown St. Louis, ending at 20th and Market streets. More than 130 floats and bands, including Belleville East, Collinsville, Mater Dei Catholic, and Bond County high school bands. For more information, go to http://www.christmasinstlouis.org/thanksgiving-day-parade/.
▪ Highland Lighted Christmas Parade — 6:30 p.m. Friday; starts at the corner of Lindenthal and Poplar streets and ends at the square. Santa comes in with the parade and starts taking his first visitors at 9 p.m. Entertainment by the Highland High School Madrigals, the Highland Municipal band. Hot chocolate and kettle corn will be available.
▪ Christmas in Carlyle Parade & Fireworks — 6:30 p.m. Friday at City Park, on Fifth Street in Carlyle. Parade starts at 11th and Fairfax streets and travels east until Fifth Street, then turn north to City Park. Rain date is Dec. 2. For more information, go to http://carlylelake.com/christmas-in-carlyle/.
▪ Breese Christmas Parade and Fireworks — 6 p.m. Saturday. Parade starts by the tracks on North Main and travels to the park. Call 618-526-7731.
▪ O’Fallon Illuminated Christmas Parade — 6 p.m. Saturday at Parkview and East Seventh streets, turns right onto South Lincoln, and left onto West First Street. Call 618-624-4500 for more information.
▪ Waterloo Glow in the Dark Holiday Parade — 5:30 p.m. Saturday. Fifth annual event. A chili supper follows the parade at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic School gym. For more information, go to www.waterlooglow.com.
▪ Sparta Lighted Parade — 6 p.m. Saturday; starts at Sparta High School, then up St. Louis Street to Broadway, to Market Street, to Osborn and back to the high school. Following the parade there will be free chili, entertainment and a visit with Santa at the Sparta VFW, 1911 N. Market St. Fireworks show at 8 p.m. For more information, call 618-317-7222 or 618-443-2917.
▪ Gingerbread Walk Display — Now through Jan. 1 in downtown Belleville shop windows in the first three blocks of East and West Main Street. See entries from the annual Gingerbread Contest. Call 618-233-1416 for more information.
▪ Horse Drawn Trolley Rides — Noon to 9 p.m. Friday in downtown Belleville. After Nov. 25, the free ride will be available from 5 to 9 p.m. Fridays, noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 18. Pick-up is the first block of East Main Street at the Public Square. See a daily schedule at http://il-belleville.civicplus.com/DocumentCenter/View/2537
▪ Christkindlemarkt — The outdoor German Christmas Market opens Friday on the Belleville Public Square and features European vendors, German food and drink, and evening entertainments on weekends. Admission is free. It will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays.
▪ Community Sing-A-Long & Lighting of the Fountain — 6 p.m. Friday at the Belleville Public Square with the Optimist Club of Belleville leading carols.
▪ Annual Holiday Market — Noon to 5 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, 30 Ramey St., Collinsville. The annual indoor event hosts 35 native American vendors that include sculptures, flute players, painters, potters, silversmiths and more. Demonstrations will be at 1 and 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For more information go to www.cahokiamounds.org or call 618-346-5160.
▪ Christmas Candlelight Tours — 6 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Col. Benjamin Stephenson House, 409. S. Buchanan St., Edwardsville. Self-guided tours are $10 for adults, $5 for children aged 6-12 and free for children under 5. Wassail and treats will be served. For more information, go to www.stephensonhouse.org or call 618-692-1818.
▪ Gateway Classic Cars Holiday Celebration — 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Gateway Classic Cars, 1237 Central Park Drive, O’Fallon. The family fun day includes music, face painting, portraits, vendors, food and drinks and the 14 showrooms of classic and collectible vehicles; admission is the donation of a new, unwrapped toy fpr Toys for Tots.
▪ Blend’s “Doo Wop Christmas Show” — 7 p.m. Saturday at The Gathering Place, 290 S. Burns St., Sparta. Tickets are $35 for the show featuring songs of the ’50s and ’60s, along with Christmas favorites and comedy bits. For more information, call 618-965-3726.
▪ Santa on the Square in Belleville — Friday through Dec. 24. Go to www.bellevillesantahouse.com for the complete schedule, but see him from 1 to 8:30 p.m. Friday (he takes a break from 4:30 to 6 p.m.), Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. and 6 to 8:30 p.m.; and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. with a break from 3 to 3:30 p.m. Call 618-541-9930 for more information. Along with Santa, one of his live reindeer will be there from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
▪ Santa on the Square in Highland — Friday through Dec. 24. Santa will be available Monday through Friday from 6 to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m., and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. He’ll be available from 10 a.m. to noon on Dec. 24. No paid photographer; bring a camera for photos.
▪ Santa at St. Clair Square — Now through Dec. 24 in Center Court at the Fairview Heights mall. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays; Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 24. African-American Santa is available on Mondays from 6 to 9 p.m. Call 618-632-7567 for more information.
Breakfast with Santa
Bretz Wildlife Lodge and Winery — 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday, 15469 Illinois 127, Carlyle. Cost is $6.95 for children aged 6 and under; $9.95 for others. For more information and reservations, call 618-594-8830.
Eckert’s Country Store and Farms — 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays through Dec. 24 and Sundays through Dec. 18. 951 S. Green Mount Road, Belleville. For more information, call 800-745-0513 or visit http://www.eckerts.com/.
Holiday Light Displays
▪ Way of Lights — 5-9 p.m. Monday to Thursday and to 10 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 31 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, 442 S. Demazenod Dr., Belleville. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Day. (Outdoor light display will remain open.) Call 618-397-6700 for more information.
▪ Lebanon’s Winter Wonderland — Through Dec. 31 at Hoerner Park, 11113 Widicus Road, Lebanon. Call 618-537-8428 for more information.
▪ Christmas Lights in the Park, Carlyle City Park, 1096 Lake Road, Carlyle, Friday through Jan. 1.
▪ Wild Lights at the Zoo — 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. most days (see the schedule for specific dates) through Dec. 30 at the Saint Louis Zoo. Stroll through a holiday wonderland and enjoy 500,000 twinkling lights, illuminated animal displays, seasonal sounds and all kinds of festive fun. Admission is $7 to $10 for adults and free for children under the age of 2. Buy online or at the zoo. Tickets and more information at https://www.stlzoo.org/.