Evanston kicks off festivities

Natalie Tapaskar

Carolers of all ages filled the air all around Fountain Square on Sherman Avenue with yuletide songs for Evanston’s annual tree lighting on Nov. 20.

Families gathered at 5:30 p.m. to participate in the ceremony, which is sponsored by EVMark, a not-for-profit promotional organization for the city.

“It’s an event that really sets the holiday season in motion,” said Martha Rosenberg, director of marketing for EVMark. “The kids just really love it.”

The event began with a performance by the Music Institute of Chicago’s Children’s Choir. Crowd favorites such as Deck the Halls, Jingle Bells and Let it Snow entertained about 20 families.

Six-year old Callie Benson, atop her father’s shoulders, sang along with every song. The Bensons celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas, Callie’s father, Brian Benson, said, so they attend a variety of holiday events.

“It’s quite interesting, because every year we have both latke and turkey,” he said.

Employees from Argo Tea also made an appearance at the event, serving free hot chocolate to all the families.

As families came up to receive their free hot chocolate, loud cheers and screams could be heard along the street as Santa Claus arrived, with Evanston Mayor Lorraine H. Morton, aboard a fire truck.

After an enthusiastic countdown from the crowd, Morton flipped the switch that illuminated the giant Christmas tree.

“I know that Santa is a little ahead of time this year, but he is here to spread the joy,” she told the excited children.

The event’s emcee and an Evanston resident of 10 years, Jim Parks, entertained the crowd throughout the ceremony.

“It’s a home-grown Evanston Christmas tree, standing three stories high,” Parks said.

This year’s holiday season is different from past years in Evanston because there will be more opportunities for residents to enjoy the holiday season. For the first time, the children can see Santa Claus on Sherman Avenue on Dec. 9 and 10, from noon to 4 p.m.

EVMark also offers a holiday podcast on its Web site, EVMark.org, where visitors can explore Evanston businesses and view special holiday events. Jim Parks is also the voice of the podcast.

Ald. Steve Bernstein (4th) said that EVMark is an important part of the city of Evanston because the organization is a good promotional tool for businesses, especially during the holiday season.

“All the lights and flowers that you see along the streets of downtown Evanston are provided by EVMark,” he said.

Northwestern students feel welcome at Evanston holiday festivities, Weinberg freshman Taylor Jang said. Jang attended the ceremony with her friend Jessica Cheng, a Weinberg freshman.

“We were at Jamba Juice and saw all the excitement and decided to check it out,” Jang said. “It feels great to be here with all this holiday spirit, especially since I won’t be going home for Thanksgiving.”

Another popular event in Evanston is the holiday book sale on Friday, Nov. 30 and Saturday, Dec. 1 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Evanston Public Library.

Starting Friday, Dec. 7, hundreds of local ice-skating students and professionals will perform the 33rd Annual Nutcracker on Ice Show at the Robert Crown Community Center and Ice Complex, 1701 Main St., with tickets starting at $8.50.

For more information on seasonal activities in Evanston, please visit the city’s Web site, www.cityofevanston.org.

Reach Natalie Tapaskar at [email protected]