10 surprising things about festivities taking place in Naperville, Aurora areas

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Make a wish: The holidays in the Fox Valley is a magical time of year for families. | File photo

Did you know that 300,000 lights adorn Naperville’s

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PHOTOS: Check out our gift tips and ideas

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downtown during the Christmas season?

Or that Santa Lucia is the Swedish symbol of the season in Geneva?

There’s so much to discover about the traditions and festivities of the town you live in. Here’s just a few fun facts that might surprise you this holiday season.

1. New this year to downtown Naperville is a Snowman Fest from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 23. On display will be 20 painted snowmen presented by the Downtown Naperville Alliance, said Ali Claudon, marketing assistant with the Alliance. They have been painted and glazed and will be unveiled Nov. 23.

Kids under 12 will be able to check in at the corner of Main and Jefferson and receive a goody bag. They can stop at each snowman and collect more goodies, she said, and families are invited to hop aboard the free Holly Trolley ride and take photos with Frosty the Snowman.

“I think it will be fun. I think a lot of people will be very excited about it. These artists have done an amazing job — they’re very detailed,” she said of the snowmen.

The display of snowmen runs through January.

2. The Little Friends Parade of Lights in downtown Naperville moves this year to the weekend after Thanksgiving. It’s now held from 4 to 8 p.m. Dec. 1.

“Black Friday in our downtown is a huge, huge shopping day for our customers and our merchants,” Claudon said. “That’s when they bring in the big bucks. That’s their ideal day. So having to close down the streets starting … it really hurts their businesses.”

Additionally, what they’ve heard from residents is that people are out of town that weekend and can’t make it.

“Pushing it back a week will allow people from Naperville to come see this parade,” she said. “It will also allow the schools to be involved … because they are actually in session.”

Entertainment includes area high school students singing from 3:45 to 4:30 p.m. from the parade main stage at Main and Van Buren. At 4:30 p.m., the Little Friends Parade of Lights steps off from Water Street; then heads north on Main Street, west on Van Buren and ends at Eagle Street, near Naper School. At 5:15 p.m., the students return to the stage for more caroling, and from 5:45 to 8 p.m. Santa and Mrs. Claus will visit with children at the Santa House at Jackson and Webster.

If you get cold, stop by the Main Street Promenade for complimentary hot chocolate.

3. Despite what you may have heard, there are places to park in downtown Naperville. There are three parking decks: Van Buren, Central Parking Facility and City Hall. Electronic signage tells you how many spaces are available. Additionally, there’s the Paw Paw lot, the Apple lot and the Riverwalk lot.

4. Get yourself some “Science with Santa” while you trim the tree from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 15 at the Sci-Tech Museum in Aurora. There will be North Pole decorations, Santa, holiday presentations, candy canes and peppermint hot chocolate. Photos with Santa cost $5.

5. Batavia business owner Craig Foltos will play the master of ceremonies at Batavia’s Celebration of Lights Festival until Santa arrives at 6 p.m. Nov. 25 at the Batavia Riverwalk to light the community Christmas tree and visit with children.

6. Geneva’s traditional Christmas Walk begins at 6 p.m. Dec. 7 when Santa Lucia, the Swedish symbol of the season, and her attendants arrive by horse-drawn carriage to offer Swedish cookies to visitors. Santa makes his appearance to light the Great Tree on the Courthouse lawn and officially opens his Gingerbread House at 6:30 p.m.

7. Did you know that Oswego’s Little White School Museum was built as a church in 1850 and used as a one-room school until the mid 1960s? The building will be open during the annual Christmas Walk from 5 to 9 p.m. Dec. 7. Kids can participate in free crafts and enjoy treats, a magician, music and more.

8. Take a ride on the Polar Express train at Blackberry Farm in Aurora. A storyteller will read the famous book, “The Polar Express” while holiday music plays and lights twinkle. Visit with Santa and enjoy Blackberry’s festive decorations plus hot chocolate and cookies provided by Aldi.

9. Montgomery residents will enjoy the village’s tree-lighting ceremony at 5 p.m. Dec. 2 in front of the Village Hall at 200 N. River St. The event features Santa Claus, musical performances by area school children and voting on the Festival of Trees entries.

10. When shopping this holiday season, it’s tempting to run to one of the big box stores and knock off everyone on your list. However, this year maybe think about shopping at one of the Mom & Pop shops in your downtown. Buying local helps create and sustain jobs, said Laura Rush, communications manager at the Geneva Chamber of Commerce.

“Most of the small businesses in downtown Geneva are owned by those nearby, so when a local purchase is made, it is directly impacting the livelihood of a friend or neighbor,” she said. “Buying local keeps the American dream alive. It boosts the local economy and supports the community. Studies show that for every $100 spent in a locally-owned independent store, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures.”