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Family Fun

Elmhurst Park District gets community involved in Wilder Park Tree Lighting

ELMHURST – The Elmhurst Park District will celebrate the holiday season with its annual tree lighting at Wilder Park, held this year at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 7.

Over the more than 20 years of the event, the Park District has further incorporated local entertainment, businesses and community members into the event, which draws more than 1,000 people, event organizers said.

Entertainment slated for the event includes greetings from Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, the songs of local children's choirs and a chance to see live reindeer, said Pat O'Neill, the district's community events and development manager. Inside the mansion, Mariano's will host free cookie decorating and Edward-Elmhurst Health will do a craft with the children, she said. This year, organizers also have added an outdoor candy cane hunt.

"We really wanted to get the community involved," O'Neill said. "We have the kids singing. Christmas is for them."

But the best part is the lighting of the trees, she said.

Angela Ferrentino, director of facilities for the Park District, manages behind-the-scenes logistics for the event. She said the event gives community groups a venue to decorate a tree for the holiday season and contribute to the beauty. There are about 65 5-foot trees surrounding one 14- to 18-foot tree at the event, she said.

"I think people enjoy being part of something bigger – that their tree is part of the ring of trees," Ferrentino said.

Various community groups, including Cub Scout Pack 24 and Artis Senior Living of Elmhurst, purchase and decorate trees, which this year are from Luurs Garden Center, O'Neill said.

"I think it's pretty neat looking," said Dan Younglove, coordinator for the Elmhurst Princesses' participation in the event, with which he's been involved for about six years.

The Elmhurst Princesses is a group that provides fathers and daughters in roughly kindergarten through fifth grade with opportunities to build their relationship together through volunteer work and social activities, he said.

Younglove is the chief this year of the Shenandoah tribe of the Elmhurst Princesses nation, which currently includes eight tribes and about 250 girls. The Shenandoah tribe purchases trees for each of the tribes, and the girls decorate the trees with ornaments, he said.

Younglove said the Elmhurst Princesses' participation in the event is a way for them "to add to the spirit of Christmas."

After the event, the trees will be lit overnight until Jan. 5, Ferrentino said.

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If you go

WHAT: Wilder Park Tree Lighting

WHEN: 5:30 to 8 p.m. Dec. 7

WHERE: Wilder Park, 175 S. Prospect Ave., Elmhurst

COST: Free

INFO: shawurl.com/36u8

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