For years Downtown Oak Park has launched its holiday season with a traditional tree-lighting, strolling carolers, sittings with Santa and seasonal in-store promotions. But this year, to celebrate the reopening of Marion Street, Downtown will blow away the past events with Winter Fest: A Celebration of Holidays Around the World. It takes place Saturday, Dec. 1 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The gala shopping season opener will step off from the north end of Marion Street and celebrate international holiday traditions with an exterior ambience and interior entertainment featuring live music, storytelling and marionette performances. Also, from 11a.m. to 4 p.m. there will be an international cookie walk. For a nominal fee families can purchase one of 500 commemorative tins from the Downtown hospitality tent to collect one gourmet cookie or candy from participating retailers. Those stores participating will be indicated via an event guide. From Competitive Foot (Scotland) to Ten Thousand Villages (Peru) and Cozy Corner (Greece), as well as businesses on Lake Street, 43 proprietors will reflect holiday ethnicity from Costa Rica and Argentina to Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, England and France to India, Indonesia, Ireland and Italy, to Latvia, Japan and China. Additionally, the first 1,000 families will receive a star-shaped thyme seed ornament they can hang on their tree and later plant.

“With the reopening of Marion Street, we definitely wanted to give a good kick-off to the season this year, and because Oak Park is all about being diverse, cultural and certainly international, and because much of the community is well-traveled and appreciative of other cultures, we thought instead of doing the usual business holiday celebration, it was a good time to have a fresh beginning.” says Pat Zubak, executive director of the Downtown organization.

Popular rebate program returns

Again, back by popular demand, is the Downtown rebate program, says Zubak. As in previous years, from now through Dec. 25 shoppers who patronize seven different businesses and spend at least $25 in each store-a total of $400 in Downtown Oak Park-can bring their receipts to the Oak Park Area Visitors Center or the Downtown office to receive five $10 gift certificates redeemable between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15.

Also, on Dec. 15 another retail event, Home for the Holidays, will feature more traditional holiday fare including horse drawn sleigh rides, a visit from Santa, ice sculptors, strolling carolers, other live music and seasonal sales and refreshments throughout the downtown business district.

“I think a majority of people here would and want to shop in Downtown Oak Park, but with the construction have forgotten about the diversity of shops we have here,” says Shanon Williams, Downtown’s marketing assistant and event coordinator. “We have clothing, home decor, books, and on Marion Street, an array of new distinctive businesses and boutiques, and more are coming. I think this holiday event will help bring people back to this corridor, and help Oak Parkers and people from the surrounding suburbs, recognize what is happening here.”

Holiday kick-off

Here’s the schedule for the Saturday, Dec. 1 kick-off.

10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Downtown hospitality tent open

11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

International gourmet cookie and candy walk

9 a.m.

Breakfast with Santa at Cozy Corner, 138 N. Marion St.

10 a.m.

Breakfast with Santa at Maple Tree, 1034 Lake St.


Community Commemorative Photo on Marion St.

All day on Marion Street:

holiday lights, carolers, bagpipes, ice sculptors and in-store sales

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Deb Quantock McCarey

Deb Quantock McCarey is an Illinois Press Association (IPA) award-winning freelance writer who has worked with Wednesday Journal Inc. since 1995, writing features and special sections for all its publications....