Geneseo Christmas Walk to include Luminaries and Lighted Parade

by Claudia Loucks correspondent
Claudia Loucks

GENESEO - For the last several years, the lighted parade has been a popular part of Geneseo’ annual Christmas Walk, but organizing a parade in the midst of a pandemic is not an easy task. Staff and members of the Geneseo Chamber of Commerce have created a means for the lighted parade to be part of the 2020 Christmas Walk on Saturday, Dec. 12.

“Christmas at the Movies” is the theme of this year’s Christmas Walk.

Festivities will get underway on Friday, Dec. 11, at the Virtual Tree Lighting Ceremony which will take place at 6 p.m. on TV50 and will feature holiday music performed by Geneseo residents and a countdown to light the tree with Santa Claus.

Zack Sullivan, executive director of the Geneseo Chamber said the City Wide Lighted parade idea is patterned after the Geneseo High School Graduation Parade held in May, when graduates rode in vehicles through downtown as well as by grade schools and some residential areas.

A 6-mile city-wide parade loop has been established that takes the parade by many Geneseo churches and senior care facilities. The parade will begin at 5 p.m. with staging taking place at 3:30 p.m. in the parking lot of Grace United Methodist Church, 318 North Center St.

Sullivan said, “We are encouraging people to use church parking lots along the route to watch the parade from their cars just like being at a drive-in movie which is fitting, with our theme this year being ‘Christmas at the Movies’.”

Lighted floats are available to reserve on a first-come, first-serve basis by calling the Chamber office at 309-944-2686 or by email at geneseo@geneseo.org.

People can also create their own floats and Sullivan said, “You can use a trailer and decorate something fun and creative or you can put some lights on your own vehicle and join the fun.”

Anyone planning to create a float is asked to register with the Chamber by calling or by email.

The number of floats will be limited to 30 for the parade and should be vehicles only as walkers or live animals are not allowed.

“The popular Lighted Parade will happen in 2020, but it’s going to look much different,” Sullivan said. “For decades, Geneseo’s faith community has supported the Christmas Walk with free cocoa, hot cider, cookies, s’mores, meals, musical performances and so much more. Unfortunately, we cannot host our friends from the Geneseo faith community in downtown Geneseo this year. Also, area seniors in assisted care facilities have had a very difficult 2020 due to COVID-19, so we’re bringing a piece of Christmas Walk to them this year.”

“We are not blocking off downtown to pedestrian traffic,” he said. “Barricades will result in thousands gathering downtown and that is not safe in the current COVID environment. Spectators are invited to watch the parade along the parade route, from their vehicles. We are asking spectators not to gather in clusters as in previous years…We have a 6-mile parade route so there is plenty of room for spectators to spread out. No crowds of 10 or more people are permitted per Restore Illinois guidelines and Sullivan added, “We really need cooperation to get it right. It’s about spreading Christmas cheer in Geneseo and to help brighten spirits during a difficult year.”

What’s old is new again in the Geneseo Christmas Walk and a vivid memory of Christmas Walk past, when it was known as the Geneseo Victorian Walk, are the thousands of luminaries lining the sidewalks of Geneseo.

The luminaries will be on display on Walk night, Dec. 12, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Geneseo City Park and along the State St. boulevards. Groups of 10 or less people can walk through the park which will be lighted by the luminaries. A rain date of Dec. 19 has been scheduled for the display of luminaries in the event of rain on Dec. 12 as it has to be dry for the luminaries.

The living windows also are a favorite part of Geneseo’s annual Christmas festivities and this year those will become lighted Christmas windows.

“In the current COVID environment, hosting live people in our traditional living windows is difficult,” Sullivan explained. “We are encouraging businesses to host a spectacular Christmas display as part of ‘Lighted Christmas Windows’ this year. The animatronics, static and /or lighted displays can be set up the entire week of Christmas Walk for shoppers and revelers to enjoy either in person or at a glance as they drive by.”

Some windows will feature live demonstrations and scenery on the evening of Dec. 12.

The 2020 Virtual Jingle Run 5K is sponsored this year by Werner Restoration Services & Good Samaritan Society Services @ Home. Runners can participate from Sunday, Dec. 6, through Saturday, Dec. 12. The first 100 runners to register at https://www.webscorer.com/registr?raceid=226414 will receive a T-shirt, and medals will be awarded to men’s and women’s top division finishers. Participants can run at their own pace and their own schedule and are encouraged to dress up in their favorite garb.

Carla Evans, left, administrative assistant at the Geneseo Chamber of Commerce; and Zack Sullivan, executive director of the Chamber; show the luminaries that will be placed along the sidewalks in City Park and along the State Street boulevard on Saturday, Dec. 12, for Geneseo’s annual Christmas Walk. Festivities will get underway on Dec. 11 with a Virtual Tree Lighting Ceremony including special music.