Metro-East Living

Don’t let it rain on Belleville’s Santa Parade

mhouston@bnd.com

All the Optimist Club of Belleville wants for Friday’s Santa Parade is dry weather.

The forecast earlier in the week called for a good chance of rain.

“We will make a decision by 7:30 that morning,” said Cindy Hawkins, parade chairperson.

Check the Optimist Club of Belleville (bellevilleoptimist.org) or its Facebook page for any changes.

Monday night, all systems were go — after all, they are Optimists. With tools in hand, they got to work.

“Our theme is always Christmas,” said Cindy. “We ask that people decorate (their floats) for Christmas. The Optimist Club builds the float Santa arrives on. It’s the antique sleigh (compliments of Bob Dintelman) and reindeer. All of the trees have to be anchored. There are sides that go on the flatbed. We decorate with garland and bows. We cover it with snow — 20 to 25 bags go on it — so it looks like Santa’s reindeer are flying out of the woods.”

The Santa Parade, a tradition in Belleville, is set to begin at 10 a.m. Friday at 17th and W. Main St. and will head east before dispersing at Union Methodist, 721 E. Main St.

In the parade, look for your favorite drummer boys — or girls from Belleville East and West high schools, District 118, Wolf Branch and Notre Dame Academy Grade School. They’ll be marching ahead of the guest of honor.

“Santa is Unit 100,” said Cindy. “We are at capacity, 100 units.”

Santa should feel pretty good about his return to Belleville this season.

The guy in the furry red suit will take up residence, beginning at 1 p.m. Friday at Santa’s House on the northeast corner of the Square.

“The big news? We have renovated his house,” said Cindy. “We have completely refurbished it, inside and out. It looks the same. That’s our goal. It has new siding, a new roof and a new paint job. We have updated the decorations on the inside to give it a fresh look. It will be a surprise for Santa, too.”

Cindy has been part of parade festivities since 2010.

Christmas is my favorite time of year. I was born and raised south of Belleville. I still live on the same farm where I grew up. I have been watching this since I was a child. I took my cousin’s children when they were little.

Cindy Hawkins on the Belleville Santa Parade

“The parade is a good fit for me,” she said. “Christmas is my favorite time of year. I was born and raised south of Belleville. I still live on the same farm where I grew up. I have been watching this since I was a child. I took my cousin’s children when they were little.”

Cindy retired in 2008 from teaching at Freeburg Elementary.

“The first part of my career, I taught kindergarten. Then, I was a primary reading specialist. Kindergarten was my passion. After I retired, I was looking for something to get involved in. I’m good friends with Corky Helms who is active with the Optimists. I stopped to talk to him one day. I told him I was interested in getting involved in a service organization. He said, ‘How about the Optimists? I will buy you lunch next week.’ You don’t say no to Corky.”

Earlier in the week, she was part of a crew putting finishing touches on Santa’s float.

“We have a good time. There’s usually a group of 15 to 20 people. We’ve got it down to a science.”

100 Units in the Belleville Santa Parade

2010 When Cindy Hawkins started working on Optimist Santa Parades

At 6 p.m. Friday on the Square, Ralph Schlesinger will lead a community sing-along to celebrate the annual lighting of the Public Square fountain.

“The Belleville Barbershoppers also will do a few songs for us,” said Cindy. “That’s when we award prizes for the coloring contests and float winners. The mayor, Mark Eckert, will be there to officially light the tree. After the songs are finished, Santa comes out and greets everyone who is there.”

Cindy’s favorite carol? ‘“The Christmas Song’ (“Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire”), by Nat King Cole.”

At a glance

  • What: Visit Santa
  • Where: On the northeast corner of the square in downtown Belleville
  • When: 1-4:30 p.m. and 7-8:30 p.m. Friday; noon-5 p.m. and 6-8:30 p.m. Saturday; 6-8:30 p.m. weekdays Nov. 30 through Dec. 18; noon-5 p.m. and 6-8:30 p.m. Saturdays; and noon-3 p.m. and 3:30-6 p.m. Sundays. During Christmas week: noon to 2:30 p.m., 3-5 p.m. and 6-8:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20; noon-5 p.m. and 6-8:30 p.m. Dec. 21-23; 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Christmas Eve.
  • Information: Check the Optimist Club of Belleville Facebook page
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