Plans to make downtown merry and bright this holiday season are underway, with the goal to have the new O’Fallon Station outdoor pavilion become an integral hub for community activities.
Mary Jeanne Hutchison, director of O’Fallon Parks and Recreation Department, said the new venue will be home to many holiday-themed events with something for everyone.
“We are so excited to bring the magic of Christmas to O’Fallon this year. It’s fitting that we can kick off both the venue and the holiday season in such a community-centered manner,” she said.
Construction of the O’Fallon Station began last spring. The all-season plaza was designed to create a central gathering place in the heart of the community. City leaders hope to revitalize downtown and make it attractive to residents, visitors and businesses. It is part of the Destination O’Fallon initiative that was approved in 2016.
Plans for the new pavilion, to be located near the corner of First and Vine streets downtown, are coming to fruition, as expectations were for small festivals, gatherings, a farmers’ market and other events to be held there.
Hutchison said they hope the pavilion work is finished Oct. 31, but it may be Nov. 5–6.
“We’re still working on it,” she said. “The building is not done yet, but it’s moving along. It was held up, but just a little. We had to move the gas line, which was substantial.”
Mayor Herb Roach said the city was very excited about four things that are going to happen this holiday season: The opening of the new O’Fallon Station, The Festival of Trees, The O’Fallon Christmas Parade Nov. 24 and the expanded lighting of downtown.
Hutchison said the first coordinated effort is the Festival of Trees Nov. 17–25, which will feature exclusive holiday trees and wreaths that have been ornately designed by local community decorators.
The trees will be 4 to 7 feet tall.
She said the parks department is partnering with HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Foundation and the O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce to hold the first O’Fallon Festival of Trees Celebration this November.
The decorated trees will then be sponsored by local businesses with proceeds to benefit the HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Foundation.
Patti Fischer, president and CEO of HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, said they are pleased to participate in this new effort to build community.
“HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital is committed to the health and wellness of the communities we serve in O’Fallon. The support that is received from Festival of Trees will allow us to continue to improve healthcare for every member of the community,” she said.
The mayor is excited about the group collaboration.
“The purpose of building O’Fallon Station is to provide a space where the community can come together and support local businesses. I’m proud that the first event will be a collaborative effort between O’Fallon Parks and Recreation, HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Foundation and the O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce,” he said.
The event kick-off Nov. 16 will include a reception that will provide attendees and sponsors with a premier first look inside of O’Fallon Station as well as the opportunity to be the first to view the collection of beautifully decorated trees and wreaths. Local entertainment and food will be featured. Ticket information is available at ofallonfestivaloftrees.com.
The Festival of Trees will include: Tours of display from Nov. 17-25; O’Fallon Polar Express, an exclusive story time in O’Fallon’s own caboose; Santa & Mrs. Claus visits daily; Craft making for children; hot chocolate; and a Christmas Cocktail Contest.
Hutchison said people can submit cocktail recipes, and then it will be served. Recipes will be given out.
“I get to go around and sample them,” she said.
Entry to the Festival of Trees events is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, $2 for students, children ages 5 and under are free. Tickets will be available at the door.
“The O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce is excited to support this new celebration in downtown O’Fallon,” said Sid LeGrand, president of the O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce. “It is our hope that this event will become a new holiday tradition for everyone within and surrounding the O’Fallon and Shiloh communities.”
The Festival of Trees will be the start of a 6-week celebration of the holidays to support and drive business to the local shops and restaurants in downtown O’Fallon. It will include:
Nov. 16 – The Extravaganza
Nov. 17-25 - The Festival of Trees
Nov. 24 – O’Fallon Annual Christmas Parade, 5 p.m.
Dec. 1 – Christmas Hand Lettering for Beginners Class – O’Fallon Station – 10 a.m.
Dec. 8 - O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce’s Tinsel Around Town
Dec. 8 - The Kissing Ball – O’Fallon Station – 10 a.m.
Dec. 8 – Carriage Rides (visit ofallonparksandrec.com for more information)
Dec. 15 – Carriage Rides (visit ofallonparksandrec.com for more information)
To sign up to be a volunteer, decorator or sponsor, please fill out a form on ofallonfestivaloftrees.com website or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The Christmas Parade is back after its successful re-launch last year.
“This is being done by a great group of donors and volunteers and great leadership that saved our Christmas Parade last year. I have been told it will be better than last year,” Roach said.
Initial plans for the pavilion were delayed when but got back on track this year.
The original proposed multipurpose community plaza design for the 1.7-acre space had to be scrapped after a high-pressure natural gas line was discovered in the area, and that would have had to be moved, which was cost-prohibitive.
The architects and designers were tasked with coming up with an alternative plan unaffected by the gas line.
The city worked with the railroad company and St. Clair County to develop more parking.
In November 2016, the council approved a rate hike to increase the hotel-motel tax from 5 percent to 9 percent, with the additional 4 percent of revenue funding Destination O’Fallon projects. Overall, the improvements total around $9.5 million, which includes a multi-sports complex in the O’Fallon Family Sports Park.
Korte & Luitjohan is constructing the Downtown Plaza and Rooters Asphalt constructed the new City Hall parking lot. The total project was estimated at $1.8 million, with $1.5 million for the pavilion and $300,000 for the parking lot.
The parking lot has 46 spots. City employees can park there during the day, and then at night, people can park there for events.
The Santa Hut has been moved, and as was the Scale House, which is a landmark.
Hutchison said the parks department is looking beyond the holiday season, too, and are working on those plans. They hope to unveil a farmer’s market next growing season.
“We want people to be able to sit around and enjoy music. We’re taking a little time to figure it all out,” she said.
The site is bordered by Vine Street on the west, First Street to the south, Apple Street to the east, and the railroad tracks to the north.